Rare white bison seen in Yellowstone evokes Native American prophecy

An incredibly rare white bison has been photographed in Yellowstone National Park, sparking excitement among Native American tribes who view its arrival as a religious prophecy heralding major change.

He was spotted in the Lamar Valley region of the park, making him the first white bison born from the last wild herd in the United States, according to modern records.

Other white bison births in recent decades have occurred in captivity and to parents containing domestic cow DNA, making wild sightings more religiously important to the tribes.

Montana photographer Erin Braaten took photos of the young buffalo in the Lamar Valley on June 4 while visiting the park with three of her eight children.

Stuck in traffic caused by a slow-moving herd of bison, she noticed the young calf across a river, nearly 100 meters (330 feet) away, and initially mistook it for a coyote due to its light sandy color.

“There were so many different thoughts and emotions,” Ms Braaten, who grew up hearing about the sacred white bison, told the BBC.

“It was so incredible. I thought I would have a better chance of capturing Bigfoot than a baby white bison,” she adds.

The birth of a white buffalo is a sacred event for many indigenous tribes of the Great Plains, including the Lakota people, who believe it relates to a time about 2,000 years ago when food was scarce and where bison were rarely seen.

Lakota legend tells of a beautiful woman who appeared and delivered to the people the gifts of a sacred pipe and a bundle. The woman told them she would return to restore harmony to a troubled world, then rolled on the ground four times, changing color each time before becoming a white buffalo calf.

His departure led the bison to return, and the white buffalo are now seen as a sign that prayers are being heard and change is coming.

The white buffalo woman is considered the central prophet – a messiah-like figure – in the theology of many tribes, including the Sioux, Cherokee, Comanche and Navajo.

His story is often compared to that of Jesus Christ in the Christian faith.

Simon Moya-Smith, an Oglala Lakota writer who also grew up on the story of the white buffalo woman, told the BBC that the arrival of a white calf is seen as both a “blessing and a warning “, following the tradition.

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