Rare & Sacred White Bison Named In Sioux Ceremony

White bison are thought to wield great power in many Native American religions. Only one in 10 million bison is born white the manifestation of an extremely rare genetic condition. That's why thousands of people came from miles around on Wednesday (June 29) to attend the naming ceremony of a white calf that was recently born on a Texas ranch.

The Native American tribesmen who led the ceremony named the seven-week-old male calf Lightning Medicine Cloud, or "Wakinyah Pejuta Mahpiya" in the Sioux language. According to the Associated Press, the name was a reference to the thunderstorm that marked the arrival of his birth as well as a tribute to a white bison born in 1933 named Big Medicine.

Arby Little Soldier, the owner of the Texas ranch where Lightning Medicine Cloud was born, is a member of the Lakota Sioux tribe of North and South Dakota. White bison (commonly known as buffalo ) have great significance to his people. According to Lakota Sioux tradition, Whope, the goddess of peace, once appeared on Earth in the form of a white bison calf.

"It's the beginning of a new age, new times," Samuel Joseph Lone Wolf, a Lakota Sioux elder, said at the ceremony. "The birth of the white buffalo calf, it tells us we need to get right, not just with Mother Nature but with all nations and with the Creator, which is God."

The white calf is not an albino it has a dark nose and eyes, and markings on the tip of its tail. Several other genetic conditions aside from albinism can cause bison to be born white. Sometimes white calves' fur turns brown as they mature.

Nonetheless, calves born white are extremely rare, and carry great significance. [See photos of Lightning Medicine Cloud]

"He's the hope of all nations," said Arby Little Soldier. "The red man, black man, white man and yellow man; we've all got to come together as one."

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Live Science Staff
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