“White Buffalo Woman” from “Return of the Bird Tribes” by Ken Carey

She came from the stars. To many tribes she came, though each knew her by a different name. You might see her now as two young Sioux hunters first saw her, walking barefoot, like a vision, across the low rolling hills of the prairie. They had climbed to the top of one such hill, looking for game, for some sign of movement on the broad rolling sea of grasses. Far away they saw a dot upon the horizon. They watched it carefully. By the time it disappeared behind the hill before them, they were almost certain it was human.

With bated breath they waited. At last, upon the crest of the hill, a young woman appeared wearing a beautiful white buckskin dress, decorated with dark porcupine quills. At her side she carried a skin pouch. An eagle feather, woven into her long, braided, black hair, caught the light of the early afternoon. Remarking upon her extraordinary beauty, the first of the warrior braves exclaimed how he would like couple with her there in the sun-warmed prairie grass.

Put aside such thoughts,” spoke the other brave. “This is a sacred woman, a vision perhaps, certainly not one to be approached in that manner.”

But to his surprise, the woman in white buckskin smiled at the lusty warrior and said to him, “Come to me. You shall have what you desire.”

And so the second brave was left standing alone on the prairie, watching as his brother walked off, apparently enjoying the mysterious woman in the swirling cloud of dust that for a while hid them both from sight. When the dust had settled enough to see, there was the woman, bringing slowly together the stitches of her dress. At her feet, partially decomposed, lay a corpse, alive with worms, beetles and a cloud of hungry flies.

Then White Buffalo Calf Woman—who was the form in which the Great Spirit had come to teach the people of the plains—spoke to the young brave, who now remained alone and said, “A man who looks first to a woman’s outer beauty will never know her beauty divine, for there is dust upon his eyes and he is as good as blind. But a man who sees in a woman the spirit of the Great One and who sees her beauty first in spirit and in truth, that man will know God in that woman; and should she choose to lie with him, he will share with her in enjoyment more fully than the former every could. And all will be as it should.”

‘You, when you looked upon me, were not blind to my beauty, but your first thoughts were, “Who is she, this beautiful woman? What is it that makes her countenance glow so in the afternoon sun? What thoughts are those that dance behind her eyes? From what land does she come? With what tidings?”

“And so, my young friend, have no fear. You, too, shall have what you desire.”

You and your friend symbolize two paths that the men of a tribe can take. If you seek first the sacred vision of the Great Spirit, you will see as the Creator sees, and in that seeing, you will find that what you need from the earth will come readily into your hands. But if you seek first to secure your early desire and forget the spirit, you will die inside.”

In olden days, most of the men took your path; but in this age many men are now going the path of your fallen brother. What you saw in the cloud was a speeded up lifetime; your brother lived many years in those moments while you saw only a swirl of dust. It was not so bad for him as you might imagine. He lived a life that many in this forgetful age would even say was a ‘good’ one. But he was ruled ever by his passions. In the end, his body turned to dust, for all his thoughts were dust. He had forgotten not only the Great Spirit, but his own spirit as well. He contributed nothing of meaning to me, to womankind, or to the people of the plains.”

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