GOSHEN, Conn. – Dozens of Native Americans wore the traditional garb of their ancestors, sang songs and beat drums on a western Connecticut farm Saturday in celebration of the birth of one of the world's rarest animals — a white bison.
The miracle calf was officially named Yellow Medicine Dancing Boy at the elaborate ceremony at the Mohawk Bison farm in Goshen in the state's northwestern hills. It was born June 16 at the farm of fourth-generation farmer Peter Fay.
Many Native Americans consider white bison a symbol of hope and unity; some consider their births sacred events. Experts say white bison are as rare as one in 10 million.
Yellow Medicine Dancing Boy is not an albino, and Fay said DNA testing confirmed the animal's bloodlines are pure and there was no intermingling with cattle.
Lakota tribe members from South Dakota were among the hundreds of people who gathered at the celebration. Other tribal elders from the Mohawk, Seneca and Cayuga tribes participated.
Crowds patiently waited by the roadside before slowly marching into the pasture and lining up alongside a fence as the ceremony began. Children squeezed up against their parents and peered through the fence.
Some women were dressed in colorful tunics and other items indigenous to Native American culture, including bracelets, feathers and boots. Men also wore traditional costumes. Those leading the ceremony wore plain and small headdresses.
Fay, 53, runs the farm below Mohawk Mountain and invited Native Americans to the event, which also included a feast and talks by tribe elders.
"I'm almost like the calf to them because I'm the caregiver. They've been here almost every day, teaching me," said Fay, who has a herd of bison tattooed on his right shoulder.
Fay attended a sweat lodge ceremony with the elders on Friday night in Cornwall. The nearly two-hour ceremony was a way to repair damage done to their spirits, minds and bodies. It acted as a prayer for a name for the calf to come to them through the spirits.
Saturday's ceremony was held under an arbor next to a large fire, amid thunder and large dark rain clouds. Marian and Chubb White Mouse, members of the Oglala Lakota tribe in South Dakota, traveled to Goshen from Wanblee, S.D., to lead the ceremony.
Marian White Mouse told the crowd the birth of a white bison is a sign from a prophet, the White Buffalo Calf Woman, who helped them endure times of strife and famine.
"We come with one prayer, one heart and one mind," she said tearfully. "This is truly a miracle. I hope that this one prayer will keep my people together, keep all of us together."
Barbara Threecrow, an elder from the Naticoke tribe who lives in Hudson Valley, N.Y., sat holding a sacred Canupa of beaver skin containing a pipe.
"I believe this is an awakening," Threecrow said. "This is a way of telling people to remember the sacredness of all of life."