Lightning Medicine Cloud, Omens, and American Indian Issues

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  May 8, 2012 — 44 Comments

On April 30th a very rare, non-albino, white buffalo calf was found dead, slaughtered by unknown individuals. The calf’s mother was also killed, poisoned by whoever killed the calf. The calf, Lightning Medicine Cloud, born at the Lakota Ranch in Greenville Texas, was considered sacred, and a reward has been offered for information leading to the capture of the perpetrators.

Lightning Medicine Cloud

Lightning Medicine Cloud

“There’s now a $45,000 reward for information leading to those responsible for the death of a white buffalo, “considered sacred by its Lakota Sioux owner,” and its mother near Greenville, Texas, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s Crime Time blog. The size of the reward has gone up ninefold in recent days and is likely headed higher, the blog adds. Donations have been coming in from around the nation.”

White buffalo are sacred in several Native American religions, and their killing can trigger outrage in Indian Country, even though breeding programs and knowledge of genetics makes them easier to create. Lightning Medicine Cloud was especially rare because the calf was naturally occurring, a one-in-ten-million event. At the Lakota Ranch’s website, an information page tries to convey the spiritual importance of a buffalo calf like Lightning Medicine Cloud.

The Native Americans see the birth of a white buffalo calf as the most significant of prophetic signs, equivalent to the weeping statues, bleeding icons, and crosses of light that are becoming prevalent within the Christian churches today. Where the Christian faithful who visit these signs see them as a renewal of God’s ongoing relationship with humanity, so do the Native Americans see the white buffalo calf as the sign to begin life’s sacred hoop.

“The arrival of the white buffalo is like the second coming of Christ,” says Floyd Hand Looks For Buffalo, an Oglala Medicine Man from Pine Ridge, South Dakota. “It will bring about purity of mind, body, and spirit and ;unify all nations—black, red, yellow, and white.” He sees the birth of a white calf as an omen because they happen in the most unexpected places and often among the poorest people in the nation. The birth of the sacred white buffalo provides those within the Native American community with a sense of hope and an indication that good times are to come.

What happens when an omen of unity and prosperity is slaughtered?  Lakota Buffalo Ranch owner Arby Little Soldier, a descendant of Sitting Bull, says that his death would strengthen, not weaken, the calf’s purpose.

“He was the hope of all nations,” he said. “You have taken the inner spirituality. You tried to stop what we’re bringing back to ya’ll, but you just opened the doors to release the message to all people.”

We as a people crave stories that seem mythic, constantly searching for sign, omens, and portents in our daily lives. So it isn’t too unexpected that the killing of Lightning Medicine Cloud would spark a response in the mainstream media. The question now is what do we do now that attention is focused on this incident? I would argue that if you are horrified by this action, if you felt some kinship and understanding as to the importance of this animal, then you should funnel that outrage and sadness into paying more ongoing attention to Native American and indigenous issues here in America, and worldwide. Too often, the concerns and struggles in Indian Country are ignored, a specialty news item covered only on specialty news sites. If we are to help bring about the unity promised by Lightning Medicine Cloud, then the practice of solidarity might be a good start.

For example, we could examine the “gutting” of environmental review in Canada, a move opposed by Canadian aboriginals and environmentalists. We could ask why the Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives opposes Native American protections in the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) reauthorization bill (even though 1 in 3 Native women will be raped during their lives and 2 in 5 women in Native communities will suffer domestic violence), or why the simple question of restoration of lands is regularly blown out of proportion every time it’s mentioned. Yet, for many of us, the connection isn’t there between our concern for the slaughter of a white buffalo calf, and the struggles of the peoples, the tribal nations, from where the context to understand that creature’s sacredness originates.

I would ask that anyone who wants to “do something,” who searched for some action to take, start with educating themselves on Native issues. Read sites like Indianz.com, News From Indian Country, and  the Indian Country Today Media Network. Listen to shows like Native America Calling, or  read blogs like Turtle Talk and First Peoples. If we Pagans would like to form alliances with practitioners of Native religions on issues of common concern, we should start by understanding what issues concern them. The death of Lightning Medicine Cloud, tragic as it is, presents an opportunity, a door we can open, towards deepening our understanding, and becoming the allies we imagine ourselves to be.

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Jason Pitzl-Waters

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  • http://twitter.com/Fae_EM Fae EdwardsMiller

    I’m horrified by the death of Lightning Medicine Cloud, and I agree with Jason that we should educate ourselves about the ongoing challenges facing native communities domestically and abroad.  For an excellent look at one particular conflict and how it played out in Wisconsin I recommend the book “The Walleye War. by Larry Nesper”

    I also think that when the perpetrators are captured (and I pray they will be) that we should apply all appropriate pressure on whoever has jurisdiction to have this case treated as a hate crime.

    I know there are many who disagree with the idea of  hate-crime statutes, but if it’s there I think it should be used.  Anti-Indian crimes are FAR too common around the country and too often go unpunished.  Also, this could be an important test case to show that living things can be considered sacred, and should be treated similarly to defaced churches or broken gravestones. We might need that precedent some day.

    • Amanda

      I like the idea of treating the killing of LMC as a hate crime like defacing a church (along with charging the perpetrators with animal cruelty). I support the idea of hate-crime statutes. I didn’t used to, but I changed my mind, because a hate crime is when you commit at crime in order to send a threatening message to an entire group of people. I’m sure they knew this calf was special and killed him to make a statement.

      It might be wishful thinking though. Probably the best I can hope for is they actually catch the perpetrators and charge them with felony animal cruelty (we have that in Texas, thank goodness), and they get some jail time.

      • No Bod E

        Unfortunately, if a pentagram is found on anything xian, it’s a hate crime. If a cross is found on anything Pagan, it is just the right thing to do because they are trying to “save” us.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_KSPFBDWEYBRLLELA6DDQ7NA4TM Hells Medic

    I think that someone was right here: the death of this sacred animal *is* going to make it stronger, and I pray that it does. We really did lose something here, and that was respect for the sacred customs of our fellow human beings. 

  • Thelettuceman

    This is horrible.  Undoubtedly, and tragically horrible.

    I am wary of considering this a hate-crime though.  And before people jump on me for saying that, please understand:  I am..trying to figure out how to properly word this so as to get my point across without causing an issue. 

    It is my sincere hope that this was just some kid who thought it would be funny, some mentally deficient or thoroughly in-need-of-help person.  I’m reminded of all those times that people “stumble” upon “ritualistic animal sacrifices” and how the people immediately screech that it’s some Pagan or Satanist or adherent of Santeria that caused it.  I do not want the community to fall into the trap of reacting to an event like this as a religiously or culturally motivated hate attack when it could just as likely be the same thing.  I think assumptions at this point in time could be the worst things to have.

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/73WYVJX4ZTBEQFVISYU74QIXZ4 Cathryn

       I doubt very much that this was someone of any age group “who thought it would be funny.”  This was  a well-planned crime — actually, a series of them, starting with trespassing and working up from there — and I believe the individuals responsible knew exactly what they were doing.  They knew how to slaughter an animal, probably very quickly, and had what they needed to do so.  They acquired a lethal poison and used it in the dosage required to accomplish this deed.  They chose particular animals.  This goes beyond getting a thrill out of the torture deaths of animals.   I believe that the intent is clear, and that intent was to commit a hate crime.  It should be investigated as such.  Once these criminals are apprehended, the District Attorney could have quite an arsenal of charges to press.   I will be working with the intention that they have an opportunity to do so.  The Native American community is the most wounded here, but hate crimes such as this create a fearful and intolerant world for us all if they go undetected and unpunished.

      Cathryn Meer Bauer

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1186404199 Crystal Hope Kendrick

         I have to agree with Cathryn.  Had Lightning Medicine Cloud been the only one killed I would have considered it just some jerk trying to cash in on a nice pelt.  However, they came back later to poison the mother so that she may never have another white calf.  That’s definitely a hate crime.

  • carebear33

    We do have felony animal cruelty statutes here in TX, and whoever did this will face up to two years in prison and I hope they get every second of it. This is beyond reprehensible and far beyond even animal cruelty. It was either done in 1) revenge, 2) to make a statement  or send a message of some sort, or 3) to have a trophy “fur” for some filthy rich collector somewhere. 

    • Boris

      According to the article in Indian Country Todau (May 4), lightning Medicine Cloud was killed and skinned. So it is probably the work of some trophy hunter.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1186404199 Crystal Hope Kendrick

         But then why did they come back later to kill the mother?  I still think it’s a  hate crime, though the skin would’ve been a bonus, I suppose.

  • http://www.facebook.com/NaturesDisciple Travis R. Tippetts

    I think it was a bucha right wing fanatics. Or maybe the Republicans did it.

    • http://www.facebook.com/NaturesDisciple Travis R. Tippetts

      The Hate group calling themselves The New Apostlistic Reformation (the NAR) has been destroying Native American artifacts and cave art and posting it on the web. They are right wing fanatics with meny of its members serving in our government. people like Rick Perry, Michele Bachmen, and Sara Palin.

      • Guest

        They probably think “America for the Americans” and mean folks who aren’t Native or from Mexico.

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=685041384 Fanny Fae

           These people believe that First Nations Peoples are conquered, and should be assimilated and converted to Christianity by now. All a part of the plan of their Manifest Destiny. Indian people are told regularly by these folks to “assimilate or die.”

  • Daniel SnowKestral

    For the Lakota People, the birth of a White Buffalo Calf heralds the eventual return of the White Buffalo Woman.  She is a central divine figure who is pivotal to the teaching of the Medicine Circle, the Sacred Pipe Prayer to the Four Directions, and living in right relationship with the Land.  Buffalo are also referred to as Pte Oyate, or the “Buffalo Nation,” and the first herds are believed to have come out the Earth. 

    It is atrocious and reprehensible that someone could kill Lightning Medicine Cloud.  Words cannot capture just how horrific this is. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=685041384 Fanny Fae

    Thank you for posting this story, Jason. The moment I saw it, I was hoping that TWH could get the word out. about the death of Lighting Medicine Cloud’s tragic death.

    As a woman of Indigenous ancestry (and many of us here are, of course), you are right, we need to build bridges with First Nations Peoples and do whatever we can by first asking them what they need and do all that we can. Again… ᏩᏙ (Wado = Tsalagi for Thank you!)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Friedrichs/100000664305220 Michael Friedrichs

    Well, THAT’S depressing.  I’m feeling more gothic by the minute.

  • Charlotte

    Given that LMC’s father had been killed (struck by lightning) a short while prior to this, and his mother was also slaughtered in this attack, was someone trying to cut the genetic likelihood of another calf being born by doing this?  If so, why would they feel that need? 

    Whatever reason, it’s a horrible event, and definitely one that has the potential for making connections between groups and creating new understandings in spite of the sadness.  

  • lilgrandma

     Someone
    out here will slip and be caught just because they can’t help but talk.
    Such a sickening thing these people deserve to be sat before the tribal
    chiefs and let them decide what their punishment should be!

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/D6NHHZRSYTHPL5SOH4O4XTUMGU Lancelot Pritchard

    HELLO!  I smell a scam. Shortly after LMC was born.  C’mon. (1)  a 1/10,000,000 chance, (2) on an indian’s ranch, (3) he set up a tourist atraction, (4) they make a little too much of the whole ‘honor gift’ idea on their FAQ’s and they kind of stress the monetary gift thing, (5) the sell souvenirs…….in other words, they are profiting from this so-called sacred prophecy, (6) the daddy  dies by a lightening strike.  I know the chances are greater with livestock but still, what are the chances this happened feet away from Arby, no less.  I mean, why was he not at least injured by the lightening strike as well, (7) someone kills the sacred calf while tribal elders are supposedly standing watch over it, (8) then someone kills the mom.  I mean, c’mon folks.

    • Yo Ma Ma

      You are very VERY disrespectful.

    • A Native American

      Wow! Talk about assumption. Storms are numerous anymore, and lightening strikes accompany those. Perhaps you should go spend some time on a reservation and observe life. Live that life, if you dare, then come back and talk about “scams.” 

    • M. Monsen

      Can’t say I find your “arguments” particularly valid, Lancelot Pritchard. (1) 1/10,000,000 chance means a 1/10,000,000 chance – it doesn’t mean “can’t happen”. (2) The odds are *a lot* better here, because, when it first happened it could only happen in a place where buffalos are bred. Meaning, the number of people it *could* happen to is pretty low, and many of them are NAs. (3) Have you ever been to the Vatican? Or to Agra? Lumbini? Jerusalem? Mecca? Louvre? (4) Well, *have* you been to the Vatican?! Or lived in a country with state religion – they don’t even *ask* before they take your money in those countries! (5) That time you went to the Vatican – you’ve been had, that *wasn’t* the Vatican, or you would have noticed a crazy commerce going on in every nook and angle. Maybe looking up “religious souvenir” in an image search will help you remember whether you’ve ever been to a holy place. (6) The uncle of a friend has been hit – that reads HIT – twice – that reads TWICE – by lightning. There were people with him both times who witnessed it, and none – that reads NONE – were the least bit hurt. He was lucky. *Very* lucky. I’ve seen what lightning can do to trees. Calf’s dad was simply not lucky. (7) (8) (9) I’ll bundle these “arguments” up into one, because I’m already tired of you: Lancelot Pritchard, you don’t sound it, to be honest, but you *might* learn more about the struggles NAs in general have and about the issues *they* find important and meaningful by following “Censored News” – http://bsnorrell.blogspot.com

      • Eran_Rathan

        As someone who has been struck by lightning twice, once within 25 feet of several others people who were not hit, I can tell you that yes, it is possible.

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/73WYVJX4ZTBEQFVISYU74QIXZ4 Cathryn

       This is ugly talk.

    • http://twitter.com/Fae_EM Fae EdwardsMiller

      Don’t feed the trolls.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=685041384 Fanny Fae

      I went to see the white buffalo calf Miracle in Janesville, WI after she was born. It was absolute pandemonium on a farm owned by white folks. When news got out, anyone was of Indigenous ancestry and could find a way was ready to make the pilgrimage. It’s about a three hour drive for us and we had to attempt the trip twice. The first time, you couldn’t get near the place.  We made it through a couple days later. I cannot tell you how important that experience was for me, my son and my Seneca brother who carpooled with us other than it was very moving and powerful for us.

      Tribal elders don’t do something like what you suggest – EVER. That would be a betrayal of the people they serve and are respected by.  That isn’t how it works. Maybe you can back when you understand even the slightest bit about what is important to Indigenous folks.

    • Krakenjokes

      If you had visited Arby’s ranch, you would see that the honor gifts and proceeds from the souvenirs are going to feed the buffalo and maintain the ranch. I would hardly call it or Greenville, Tx a tourist destination.

      The information regarding the location of Arby or “Tribal Elders” at any time that you reference above is also incorrect.

      • Henry

        you mean it’s not like Salem, Mass.? lol

    • Henry

      heh, no less a ‘scam’ than begging money from folks to support temples, libraries, seminaries, etc. No less a ‘scam’, than begging money to send folks to conferences and festivals or to support other projects, or to keep their blogs going.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Robert-Kessler/100000532608367 Robert Kessler

      @Lancelot – I live near the Lakota Ranch and can vow to Arby Little Soldier’s character. Having been invited to their home days after LMC was born and being acutely aware of the significance this calf held, makes the events you speak so brazenly about all the more horrific. Arby has deep Lakota roots, not only with ancestral names like Sitting Bull, but their family name comes directly from the scout work done for the likes of Custer himself. This coming of the sacred white buffalo was prophecized over 8 years ago by numerous tribal elders and Arby had many dreams about the coming. I dont know if you understand the circumstances of LMC’ dad “Gentle Ben” but I can assure you the storms that hit the DFW area in April and spawned over 21 confirmed tornadoes created some 16 thousand lightning strikes in less than an hour from the tornadic cell that came over this area…I have many friends who were wiped out due to the trail of damage created by these storms.

      Maybe you dont understand that Texas endured its worst drought last year and that the Little Soldier’s had to make many personal sacrafices to import hay and water for LMC and all of the other animals…maybe you arent aware that Arby was hospitalized twice with heat stroke caring for the sacred ones and that through all of the pain, suffering and peril the Little Soldiers managed to live through the love and spiritual vision that LMC brought was never taken for granted. Each month they allowed a pilgrimage of people to come out and visit LMC. They entertained many shaman, medecine men and tribal elders from all nations and were unbelievable embassedors of the message LMC brought.

      Had you taken an interest in this when LMC was born and met the caretakers of his legacy, you might not have such a monday morning quarterback view of the events. Did you go visit LMC? Did you or have you ever volunteered for disaster relief? Have you ever whitewashed a ranch fence or moved cattle into shelter to avoid the scorching 100+ heat @ over 150 days last year????? Or do you prefer to sit back in your easy chair and sling garbage at the very people who offer you of themselves and everything they have…..

  • Hotstreak12

    lancelot has a point. It could be a scam, or it could be a ritual killing by fundamentalist Christians who believe they are doing gods work killing the pagan idol. I’m surprised no one has mentioned how close an association the white buffalo can be with the golden calf in many Christians minds.  

    • Krakenjokes

      Drawing a comparison to the “golden calf” is a stretch.

      • Hotstreak12

         really. I don’t think it’s a stretch. Both were bovine and the epitome of pagan worship. I’m just saying that while it may be a stretch for us, in the mind of a fundamentalist, who knows.

  • Aquila ka Hecate

    Thanks for covering this, Jason.
    Here’s another link for those interested in following Indigenous matters:
    http://www.bsnorrell.blogspot.com/

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1315448416 Aepril Schaile

    “I would argue that if you are horrified by this action… then you should funnel that outrage and sadness into paying more ongoing attention to Native American and indigenous issues here in America, and worldwide.” Hear, hear!

  • Kilmrnock

    I have to side with the Indian nations , this was a atrocoius, vile crime , cowardly to boot . Altho not outside the realm of possibility , i wouldn’t blame the RR christians yet, until adaquit evidence is presented . All this may just be a case of poaching . Altho the killing of the mother is odd as well. The main point i want to make is we, the pagan community, need to support our American Indian friends and brothers . We all are after all earth centered pagans .Many of us pagans , Particulary in the recon groups follow a tribal path and completly understand our Indian brothers and sisters feelings and way of life .     Kilm

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=685041384 Fanny Fae

       We could blame Ted Nugent. He tried to buy Miracle, the White Buffalo Calf that was born in Wisconsin back in the 90′s.   I mean he does pride himself on being a big-time hunter after all! ;)

  • A.C. Fisher Aldag

    This event is terrible…

    I want to comment on a misleading editorial statement … The “Republican led House of Reps” is not in favor of the domestic violence legislation language for two reasons, neither of which have anything to do with being anti-female or anti-Native.  One is that Native people belong to sovereign nations which have their own laws.  Two is that the “violence against women act” have redundant clauses that are covered by other laws.

  • Andrea Crossett

    After reading all of the comments on this post, I find myself wondering if this isn’t two separate crimes.  The killing and skinning of the calf smacks of poaching to me.  Someone poisoning the mother later – that sounds opportunist.  Like someone who heard about the calf being killed, and wanting to make a statement after the fact.

  • The space between

    The christ is waking earth -she’s here white buffalo woman the Devine feminie energy with master Jesus soul in her body

  • Outdoorsz

    Lets face it, its Texas, and if they can kill an animal AND insult another culture by doing so, its simply an added bonus for them.  How sad. 

  • Crystalmtn

    was considered sacred?  He still IS

  • Rachel K3

    No words could begin to convey how terrible this is.  I liken it to the sacrifice of all symbols of hope such as Christ.  Evil took a chainsaw to the sacred thron at Glastonbury that meant so much to so many here in the UK, and elsewhere. I agree with Arby Little Soldier that the meaning of the death ‘or sacrifice’ of Lightning Medicine Cloud is to ’strengthen not weaken his purpose’. I too recognise him as a symbol of Hope and of the message of solidarity between all peoples. We must never respond to hate with hate. Love is like scalding hot water is to all that is evil.