Legend of White Buffalo Calf Woman and the Sacred Pipe

How the Lakota People Received the Pipe

The plains people had a religion, given to them long before the Euro-invasion. The religion had spread throughout the land to all people and Nations. It was first given to the Teton Sioux back when Standing Hollow Horn was a chief in the Lakota Nation. This religion promoted brotherhood and peace through the solemn rite of the sacred pipe. It came to the people in this manner.

One summer so long ago that nobody knows how long, the seven sacred council fires of the Sioux came together and camped. The sun shone all the time, but there was no game, and the people were starving.

Standing High Hollow Horn, leader of the people, sent two young Lakota men on foot to hunt. The men were returning empty-handed when they climbed a high hill to scan the whole country. In the distance they saw a beautiful young woman who floated as she walked toward them. She was very beautiful, her long hair hanging down, and she wore a fine white buckskin dress.

She was so beautiful, that one young man desired her and said so. The other hunter said that he should not talk so as this was a Wakan woman, a Holy woman.

As the woman arrived she knew their thoughts and she beckoned the Evil minded young man to come to her where a cloud overcame them. When the cloud lifted, she stood alone and at her feet were a pile of bones with horrible snakes crawling over them.

She then told the man with the Good mind to return to his people and tell them she was coming. When she arrived, the woman carried a sacred bundle that was wrapped in sage. She gave to the people seven sacred rites, among them the rite of the sacred pipe which she carried in the sacred bundle. She gave this to the people and taught them how to use it.

"With this holy pipe, you will walk the Earth; for the Earth is your Grandmother and Mother, and she is sacred. Every step that is taken upon her should be like a living prayer," she said. "The bowl of the pipe was made of the red stone.1 It represents the earth that bears and feeds us. On one side was carved a bison calf which represents the four legged on the earth. The stem of the pipe is wood and represents all that grows upon the earth. These twelve Eagle feathers hanging from the stem mean the sky and the twelve moons. The feathers are for the Spotted Golden Eagle and represents the winged peoples in the air. All these peoples and all the things of the universe are joined to you who smoke this pipe--all send their voices to the Great Spirit."

"This Earth which He has given to you is red, and the two-legged who live upon the Earth are red; and the Great Spirit has also given to you a red day, and red road. All this is sacred, so do not forget! Every dawn as it comes is a holy event, and every day is holy, for the light comes from your Father Wakan-Takan; and also you must always remember that the two-legged and all the other peoples who stand upon this earth are sacred and should be treated as such.…… Wakan-Takan has given you seven days to send your voices to Him."

The woman also told the Sioux about the value of buffalo, women and children. "You are from the Mother Earth," she told the women. "And like the Mother, women bring forth the continuance of life. What you are doing is as great as what the warriors do."

The sacred woman then started to leave the lodge, but turning again to Standing Hollow Horn, she said: "Behold this pipe! Always remember how sacred it is, and treat it as such, for it will take you to the End. Remember, in me is there are four ages. I am leaving now, but I shall look back upon your people in every age, and at the End I shall return. Moving around the lodge in a sun-wise manner, the mysterious woman left, but after walking a short distance she looked back towards the people and sat down. When she rose, the people were amazed to see that she had become a young white buffalo calf, then this calf walked farther, lay down, and rolled, and become a black buffalo, then the calf walked farther, lay down, and rolled, and become a red buffalo, then the calf walked farther, lay down, and rolled, and become a yellow buffalo, then the calf walked farther, lay down, and rolled, and become a white buffalo. This buffalo then walked farther away from the people, stopped, and after bowing to each of the four quarters of the universe, disappeared over the hill.

Through the pipe ceremony, all men would become brothers and peace would exist in them and between them.


In 1994, Miracle, the White Buffalo Calf was born. She was heralded as the fulfillment of Prophecy. She was born on the morning of the last day of the Sioux4 Sun Dance. Floyd Hand "Looks for Buffalo" a Spiritual leader of the people had prophesied Her birth. The Lakota had invited the spiritual leaders of many other tribes like the Iroquois and Hopi to join in their Sun Dance.

Soon after Her birth, Miracle began to change colors. An outcry was heard that she was not a true albino and could not be the chosen one. Miracle would eventually change from white to black, red, yellow and back to white.

To best understand this Prophecy, it is best to hear it from the famous Oglala Sioux Holy Man, Black Elk.

"In the great vision which came to me in my youth, when I had known only nine winters, there was something which has seemed to me to be of greater and greater importance as the moons have passed by. It is about our sacred pipe and its importance to our People."

"We have been told by the white men, or at least by those who are Christian, that God sent to men His Son, who would restore Order and Peace upon the Earth: and we have been told that Jesus the Christ was crucified, but that he shall come again at the Last Judgment, the end of the world or cycle. This I understand and know that it is true, but the white men should know that for the red people too, it was the Will of Wakan-Tanka, the Great Spirit, that an animal turn itself into a two-legged person in order to bring the most Holy Pipe to His People; and we too were taught that this White Buffalo Calf Woman, who brought our sacred pipe, will appear again at the end of the "world", a coming which we Indians know is now not very far off…"

"Most people call it a "Peace Pipe," yet now there is no Peace on Earth or even between neighbors, and I have been told that it has been a long time since there has been Peace in the world. There is much talk of Peace among the Christians, yet this is just talk. Perhaps it may be, and this is my prayer that through our Sacred Pipe, Peace may come to those peoples who can understand, an understanding which must be of the heart and not of the head alone. Then they will realize that we Indians know the One True God, and the we pray to Him continually…"

"I have wished to help my people understand the greatness and truth of our own tradition, and also to help in bringing Peace upon the Earth, not only among men, but within men and between the whole of creation. "

"We should understand well that all things are the works of the Great Spirit. We should know that He is within all things; the trees, the grasses, the rivers, the mountains, and all the four-legged animals, and the winged peoples; and even more important, we should understand that He is also above all these things and peoples. When we do understand all this deeply in our hearts, then we will fear, and love, and know the Great Spirit, and then we will be and act and live as He intends."5

1 Red Stone is known as Calanite. It is found in only one place in the world, in Pipestone Minn. This valley has been a valley of peace where even bitter enemies called a truce in order to obtain the sacred stone. The stone is said to be made of the blood of the people. when the stone is worked the stone is said to smell of blood. At the quarry, the stone is covered with earth after some has been removed. They say that when they go back to get more stone that the stone taken before has been replaced. Because the stone IS the blood of the people, Traditionalists are adamant against selling it.

2 Floyd Hand in his book "Learning Journey on the Red Road" states that there are 13 Eagle Feathers and 13 moons. He also states that the White Buffalo Calf Woman is the Same as Mother Mary.
3 Arvol Looking Horse is 19th generation to be keeper of the Sacred Pipe. He hosts a Unity Ride and a World Day of Peace on June 21.
4 The word Sioux is used here as a general inclusive reference to the many divisions of bands known as the Lakota, Dakota, Ogalala, Teton, etc.
5 Excerpt taken from "The Sacred Pipe" by Black Elk written by Joseph Brown.

About the Painting

I had planned this painting for two years but when I sat down to painting it, it evolved into something totally different than the planning I had done. As I worked on it, I became aware that Mother Mary was the same personage as White Buffalo Calf Woman. Two years later when I obtained a copy of "Learning Journey on the Red Road" by Floyd Hand, I received validation of this. This piece was a gift of spirit and even the cost of printing was supplied by spirit.

The painting depicts the story, with the beautiful maiden in white buckskin, carrying the sacred bundle wrapped in a hide and sage. In the perimeters are the earth represented corresponding with the calanite pipe bowl carved as a buffalo calf which represents all four legged people, the growing things are represented and correspond with the stem of the pipe, and the 12 moons and the Universe are represented to correspond with the 12 eagle feathers of the pipe which represent the winged people. I used four buffalo calves of different colors as they fit into the composition easier. I used the white winged dove as a universal symbol of peace. All is surrounded by the glow of sacredness. The immediate impression of a sky gate to spirituality is created by the gold lines and the presence of the gate in the clouds.