By LINDA STEWART BALL
DALLAS (AP) -- An Oregon peacemaker said she's so upset by the apparent slaughter of a rare white buffalo calf -- deemed "the hope of all nations" by a Lakota Sioux rancher last year -- that her organization is donating a white buffalo bull from its herd.
Arby Little Soldier, who owns the Lakota Ranch near the North Texas town of Greenville, said he had hoped the 3,000-pound gift would arrive during a memorial celebration this weekend that was initially intended to celebrate Lightning Medicine Cloud's first birthday, which was May 12. The calf was found dead nearly two weeks ago.
"We're trying to surprise everybody," Little Soldier said Friday, while preparing for opening ceremonies that were later cancelled by rain. A memorial service will be held on Sunday morning.
Cynthia Hart-Button, the bull's caretaker and the president of the Sacred World Peace Alliance, is tight-lipped about the animal's exact arrival time because of transportation and security concerns. The organization claims to have a record 14 white buffalo on its sanctuary in central Oregon.
"It's a sad tragedy," she said of the calf's death. "So, instead of them thinking that they lost their hope, we're bringing their hope back in a different way."
Hart-Button said she hopes the bull, named Chief Hiawatha, will produce another white calf for the Lakota Ranch. The bull will turn 7 on May 16.
She said Hiawatha has been like a guard dog, growling when someone comes near who "is not good in spirit."
"I'm sending it down to protect not only the buffalo but to protect him (Arby Little Soldier) and his family," Hart-Button said.
According to Lakota Sioux lore, the goddess of peace once appeared in the form of a white buffalo calf.
As a non-albino white buffalo, Lightning Medicine Cloud was revered by Native Americans. Thousands of people of all races attended a naming ceremony for the unusual calf last year, and Little Soldier called it the "hope of all nations."
Little Soldier said he found the calf dead and skinned, a few feet away from where it was born a year ago. Little Soldier said the calf's mother, which was found dead and skinned the next day, was poisoned. The calf's father was struck and killed by lightning in April.
The Hunt County Sheriff's Department and the Texas Rangers are investigating the calf's death, and Little Soldier said the Bureau of Indian Affairs is also involved.
"We're pushing for this to be a hate crime," said Little Soldier, who wants lawmakers to offer some kind of protection for the white buffalo. There is also a reward that now exceeds $45,000.
Hart-Button said her organization doesn't open its sanctuary up to the public because of safety concerns.
"We've been threatened, people have offered me millions of dollars for their heads and hides," she said. "I've even been offered money for their meat. These are the rarest animals in the world."
The peace organization's bull may not carry the same spiritual significance, as Little Soldier said it was bred to be a white buffalo. But he said he's grateful and excited for the gift.
"These buffaloes represent world peace, killing something that's sacred is not what we're supposed to be walking," Hart-Button said. "We're supposed to be walking towards peace, not going backwards."
Little Soldier said he wants the buffalo's killers to know they may have destroyed the animal, but not what he stood for. Little Soldier said he has received condolences and concerned calls from as far away as Australia, Europe and Canada.
"They've opened the doors to him being bigger than ever," Little Soldier said.
Lakota Ranch website: http://www.lightningmedicinecloud.com/
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.