Miracle's Second Chance:
New White Buffalo Calf Born in Janesville, Wisconsin
By Stephanie M. Schwartz, Freelance Writer
Member, Native American Journalists Association (NAJA)
© September 10, 2006 Brighton, Colorado Stephanie M. Schwartz
Miracle, the female Sacred White Buffalo Calf, was born on the small family farm of Dave, Valerie, and Corey Heider near Janesville, Wisconsin during the morning of August 20, 1994. Not an albino, she was considered to be the first white buffalo calf born since 1933. An incredibly rare event.
Furthermore, she was perceived as an extremely sacred traditional symbol to many American Indian and Canadian First Nations tribes across the continent. The Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota Nations (known collectively as the Sioux) were considered Miracle's primary spiritual guardians and she played a pivotal role in the fulfillment of their most revered prophecies.
Tragically, and unexpectedly, Miracle died of natural causes on September 19, 2004.
However, on August 25, 2006, another extraordinary miracle occurred on the Heider family farm. During or shortly after a severe lightning storm, another white buffalo calf, this time a male, was born in the early morning hours to the Heider herd. Like Miracle, he is not an albino.
Named by Valerie Heider, "Miracle's Second Chance" is a lively, captivating, confident calf who seems to be fully aware of its special role. Mrs. Heider says she picked this name because the calf exhibits so many of the same behaviors that the original Miracle did as a calf and also because, "He looks a lot like her, too."
Even further, the herd clearly is aware of the calf's unique similarity. The Heiders relate that the herd treats Miracle's Second Chance exactly like it did Miracle by keeping him in the center of the herd, the most protected position. Additionally, the other mother buffalos step in and keep their own calves from being too rough with him.
Amazingly, Miracle's Second Chance is not from any genetic line connected to the original Miracle. He was born to a Grand Champion buffalo mother purchased in Missouri by the Heiders not long ago to strengthen and diversify their herd. The sire, an unruly and dangerous 12 or 13 month old bull (a long yearling), was sent to slaughter before the calf was born. There are two other buffalo on the Heider farm which are currently pregnant by this bull.
The original Miracle turned four colors by the time she was six months old (white, black, yellow, red) before finally settling into a red and brown coloration as an adult. She had begun to lighten again but her death interrupted any further color changes. No one will ever know if she would have gone back to her original white.
Will Miracle's Second Chance turn colors or stay white? No one knows. Only time will tell.
Surprisingly, since Miracle's birth in 1994, a number of white buffalo calves have been born across the country. Some were albino (not considered a true "white buffalo" per the traditional stories) and many of these did not survive. Others were not pure buffalo, reportedly a crossed-mix of buffalo and Charolais cattle or yak or other bovine. There still remain a few legitimate white buffalo calves alive today and now this new calf can be added to that list.
Although not American Indian, the Heider family came to view Miracle as a special gift which belonged to the hearts of all people. Furthermore, the land on which their farm sits has always been considered highly sacred by the region's Native American Nations, a fact respected by the Heider family.
Commercialization of Miracle was never allowed. At large financial and personal cost to themselves, the Heiders opened their Wisconsin farm to thousands of visitors, free of charge, seven days a week so that people could visit Miracle at the pasture fence. To a vast number of people of all races around the world, she came to symbolize hope and renewal for humanity and for harmony between all cultures. And while the number of visitors to the Heider farm had slowed drastically since her death, people still came to pay their respects at Miracle's grave, to honor her life and message.
Now, many will come to the Heider Farm again, to see this new white buffalo calf, Miracle's Second Chance. Even though being male means he doesn't literally fulfill the Lakota prophecies, his sex does not diminish his sacredness to the indigenous Nations. From all cultures, some people will come in reverence and prayer; others will come to do traditional ceremony while still others will come simply out of respectful curiosity. But whatever the motivation, it is quite certain they will come.
Visitors bring logistical difficulties for the Heider family. Since Miracle's death, they have plowed the parking area and turned it into a corn field. Additionally, with the passing of Mrs. Heider's parents and some of their volunteers moving away, no one may be available to open the little museum/farm product shop or to accompany visitors to the pasture. Valerie spends most days at the local farmers' market selling their farm products and buffalo meat while her husband works for the Rock County Highway Department. All in all, this means the farm is no longer open all the time, at least right now.
Furthermore, after dedicating 10 years to Miracle and her visitors, the Heiders had hoped to resume some kind of normalcy to their lives and family. The shock of this birth has brought them understandably mixed emotions ranging from envisioning their lives evaporating again to a solid awe and respect at the incredible miracle and responsibility of it all.
As the difficulties sort themselves out, as they most certainly will with time, little Miracle's Second Chance remains a strong, healthy, obviously happy and rambunctious calf who delights in cavorting around the pasture and trying to play with the older calves. Oblivious to the issues surrounding him, he simply lives in the moment and brings smiles and memories to everyone who sees him. And awe. Miracle's Second Chance.
To visit Miracle's Second Chance in Janesville Wisconsin, call Valerie and David Heider at (608) 752-2224
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Note: This article has been re-published by in-print media such as the Native American Times Newspaper, Lakota-Dakota Journal, and others.