Bahai News - White Buffalo Calf Woman
The Return of the "White Buffalo Calf Woman": Prophecy of
The following interview of Counsellor Jacqueline
Left Hand Bull by U.S. National Spiritual Assembly member Patricia Locke
(Lakota) was conducted in 1989 and submitted to public newspapers in the
South Dakota area.
Pat Locke: Some recent letters to the Editor have shown that
there is interest and some confusion about Indians and the Baha'i Faith.
So I decided to interview my friend Jaci Left Hand Bull, a Sicangu who
practices the Lakota spiritual traditions and who is simultaneosly a
Pat Locke: First, I'm curious about how you feel about being a
Lakota woman in today's world.
Left Hand Bull: I'm used to strong women, in a womanly sense. The
strongest women I know were my grandmothers and mother. So when the
feminist movement in the seventies seemed to deny womanhood in favor
of a female-malehood, I really didn't get it. My body is obviously
made for bearing children, and my instincts are to nurture those
children. For awhile that was put down, like a curse we had to
overcome. But my brain is as good as my brother's and just about that
time (the 70's), I started to teach Indian children's culture classes,
and as I drew on my own cultural background I found myself repeatedly
seeing male and female balance in all things, in all the teachings of
the earth, so I went with it, and through teaching it came to a
deepened understanding of the beauty and wisdom of male and female.
Then I also learned that one of the major teachings of Baha'u'llah is
equality, but not identical sameness, of the sexes. It made sense to
I am a feminist, but I believe that equality, especially in the
spiritual realm, already exists. In the physical world it can be
demanded, but unless it is also earned, or won, it leads to nothing in
the end. Because Lakota women, who have protected our culture over the
generations, have earned it, the traditional people do respect women
as spiritual and social equals. So to use one's body AND one's mind
for the good of the people is how one wins the recognition and
appreciation of equality. All life is a balanced partnership. It's
Lakota. It is also one of the teachings of Baha'u'llah that a
necessary step in the attainment of world peace is the recognition of
the equality of women and men and the full participation of women in
the affairs of the world. The womanly perspective of the mothers is
needed at all levels. To me, that's not a foreign, or non-Indian
concept. But DOING it, will take effort, especially in the non-Indian
Locke: How many Indians do you estimate are Baha'is in the
Left Hand Bull: There are probably over 200,000 Indian Bahai's
in the Americas. Most, the vast majority are in South America, where
there are very large populations of Indians, many who don't even speak
Spanish. But Central America also has quite a few thousand especially
among the Mayan Indians.
Locke: Why do you think so many indigenous people have become
Left Hand Bull: I think indigenous people are initially
attracted to the Baha'i faith for two or three reasons. For some, it
is the fact that the teachings of the faith emphasize the importance
of preserving Native cultures. We know that we, and all Indians, have
been under tremendous pressure to assimilate into non-Indian ways, so
it is a confirmation for many to learn that a messenger of God brought
this particular teaching over a hundred years ago.
For others it is the genuine, "no strings attached" love Baha'is have
for one another and for all people. It's unconditional love. Because
of the abusive or exploitative "love" that so many indigenous peoples
of the Americas have experienced for generations, a genuine
appreciative love is like a glimpse of what life is supposed to be,
respectful. For others it is various specific teachings of the Faith
that attract- like the equality of all people, or the teaching that
there is only one God, that His messengers - Christ, Moses, the White
Buffalo Calf Woman - brought specific teachings for a time and place.
But, these are only what initially attracts Indians to the Faith.
Later it is the spiritual recognition of the Creator, manifested in
Baha'u'llah, for this long-promised age that is now dawning.
Locke: Some people seem to have the impression that an Indian
has to surrender his or her identity as an Indian in order to become a
Baha'i - what is your reaction to this idea?
Left Hand Bull: Well, it is understandable that Indians would
think that, they'd have to give up something. We only have to look at
our parents or grandparents lives to see what accepting a "new"
religion can do. We lost so much.
To be a Baha'i is a purely voluntary decision. We know that some
imposed religions actually banned native language and culture, dances,
music, etc. To see some of the music and dance festivals put on by
Indian Baha'is and to listen to conferences held in languages that
were nearly extinct, is inspiring. If you believe that the arts are an
expression of the spirit, it is even more significant.
I really admire those whose instinct it is to protect the people's
right to be who we are - to be Indian. So it is those who look more
closely, with keener observation, who see that rather than doing away
with Indian ways, the Baha'i teachings actually protect them.
I know a number of Indian Baha'is who still pray and maybe more
joyfully and humbly than before, in the traditional ways, with the
Pipe, in the sweat lodge, even in the Sun Dance. Did you know that
Baha'is are strongly encouraged to arise and pray at dawn? I remember
watching my grandpa doing that and watching for the morning star.
When the Calf Pipe was brought out 2 years ago, it gave us a good
chance to really think about what that Pipe represents. To me, it's
like the very center of the Lakota people, as well as what binds us
together as a people. It's both the center of the medicine wheel, and
the hoop of the medicine wheel. It's a powerful mystery, and yet there
is also the tangible Pipe bundle. We are a fortunate people to still
have that bundle, the physical center point of our people-hood and our
spiritual history. After the Pipe, came the ceremonies, one by one,
that offer spiritual guidance for us as we journey through this
material life. And the White Buffalo Calf Woman said we'd go through
tests and difficulties, and that she would return in the dawn of a new
day. The way of the Pipe isn't dead, it's organic and it's alive.
When she said she'd return, it was a promise. Some of us believe that
the promise has been fulfilled. We care a lot about our beliefs, and
about being Indian. Others don't believe the promise is fulfilled,
that's their right, too. One thing about Lakota ways that I'm really
proud of is the respect for anothers vision, for their spiritual
understanding. No need to condemn. It seems to me that to argue about
spiritual belief would be most disrespectful of each other and of the
My uncle, Adam Bordeaux was a healer - he had strong medicine and to
the end he was always learning, and always interested in what others
understood, and yet I can never remember him ever condemning others
spiritual beliefs. He always protected the people, especially the
elders who couldn't speak English.
Locke: Based on your travels among Indian people throughout the
Western Hemisphere what have you observed about Indian Baha'is and the
practice of their cultures?
Left Hand Bull: In Central and South America the pressure to
give up Indian ways has been going on somewhat longer than in North
America. But millions of Indians have hung on to their language and
their ways. Those are the places where there are now the most Indian
Baha'is. In other places, the Indians had nearly lost the language and
the arts - music, dance, special clothing, but among the Indian
Baha'is in those places there is an active efffort to protect what is
left and to nurture it back to full blossom again. It's the only place
where I've observed that actually happening.
For example, the Guymi Baha'is of Panama's mountains have built a
cultural center - NOT for tourism- but as a place for development of
economic and social programs within the cultural context - by the
Guymis themselves, to protect what was seriously threatened by outside
pressure. And this is done without politics, government funding or
To see what they are doing for families for education, for women, is
amazing. They are a people like us, strong and determined. About
midnight one night last winter I watched a dozen circles of 10-15
people in each circle, under a beautiful large shelter, consulting
about the things that could strengthen the spiritual lives of their
families, would keep the children safe and growing up loving the Guymi
values. Everyone participated, men, women and youth. They had decided
to consult in this way. Then later, each group shared its vision with
the entire gathering and some full community decisions were made. It
reminded me of many work- shops and conferences I'd attended in the
U.S., but this had a totally Indian, spiritual climate. They are
Baha'is, and are the only Guymis actively involved in preserving the
culture as a living, functioning, organic, shelter for the people.
These Guymis didn't give up a thing except hopelessness.
Locke: How do you as a Lakota woman reconcile your culture and
the Baha'i Faith?
Left Hand Bull: First of all our name Lakota means peace, amity
- harmony - balance. We perceive the universe as being inter- related
and inter-connected - that's our most significant prayer "mitakuye
oyasin" - "all my relations" - we understand this relatedness in fours
- the four directions, the four winds, the four elements of life
(fire, water, air and earth), the four colors - red, black/blue, white
and yellow, that are symbolic of the four races of humankind. This
world view is sacred and is based on the teachings of the White
Buffalo Calf Woman.
This Lakota world view meshes with the Baha'i world view. The same
Creator that sent Moses and Jesus also sent the White Buffalo Calf
Woman and Baha'u'llah - the prophet founder of the Baha'i faith. So
it's not difficult for me to reconcile the teachings of the White
Buffalo Calf Woman and Baha'u'llah. I see it - Baha'u'llah's teachings
- as the next step of Lakota ways. Only now we take our place in the
world community, with all Indian people united.
Locke: Some have referred to the Baha'i faith as a 'cult', what
is your reaction?
Left Hand Bull: My reaction is surprise. Is the way of the Calf
Pipe a cult? Or Christianity? Perhaps the people making that remark
don't know that the Baha'i faith is the second most widespread
religion in the world, with nearly 6 million members, representing
every race, culture and thousands and thousands of languages. Mostly
indigenous people - people of the earth - bright, strong, determined,
and spiritually alive. Only Baha'is themselves are permitted to
contribute to its funds. It has non-governmental organization status
at the U.N. and has contributed positively to many deliberations,
especially in the area of human rights. It doesn't have any secret
rituals. Naturally some will oppose it - perhaps because of fear or
growth, or because they don't know what the faith actually teaches.
But then, Jesus Christ and his followers were opposed and persecuted,
for over two centuries. People rejected Him in His own lifetime.
Not all Lakota become followers of the Pipe way. The first one to
encounter the Sacred Woman, not only didn't appreciate who She was,
but tried to violate Her. Before making judgements or accusations, an
honest investigation of the facts should happen and a respect for
another's spiritual beliefs that do no harm to others should be
Locke: Where can one go to get answers and more information?
Left Hand Bull: Other than talking to Baha'is, there are many
books, videos, pamphlets and tapes of the Baha'i faith. If there isn't
a Baha'i in the area, information from the National Center can be
reequested. The address is:
Baha'i National Center, Wilmette, IL 60091.
Since the Baha'i faith doesn't have clergy, ordinary individuals
voluntarily go to live in areas where they can do their best to share
the teachings of the faith, and where together the Baha'is old and new
work to gain a better understanding of the teachings and to build
healthy, culturally relevant Baha'i communities.
©Copyright 1989, Baha'i National Center, Wilmette, IL
Page last updated/revised 081600
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