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White Buffalo Calf Woman: The Origin of Culture Through Prophecy

White Buffalo Calf Woman’s legend is over 2,000 years old and is central to the spiritual practices of numerous Indigenous nations.

Colourful painting of a woman standing wearing a white dress with a ghost-like white buffalo hovering above in a star-filled sky.

The Prophecy of the White Buffalo Calf Woman painting by Claire Beaulieu-Antoine, 2017.


The legend goes that one day two warriors were out hunting buffalo when suddenly they were encountered by the sacred entity of the White Buffalo Calf Women. When they first saw her, she appeared as a white buffalo calf. But as the pair came closer, she turned into a beautiful woman.

One of the hunters approached her with harmful intent, and then a black cloud came over his body and annihilated him. The other hunter kneeled and prayed, gracing her with respect. He was sent on a mission to return to his people and prepare them for her coming.

A black and white photo of two teepees sitting next to each other with trees in the background, one standing taller than the other.

Teepees at Willow Lake, now Gregoire Lake in the Wood Buffalo region, 1917.


The White Buffalo Calf Woman arrived among the people, carrying a sacred bundle including the prayer pipe and a fan of sage leaves.

A coloured graphic of a circle divided into four, each a different colour, red, black, yellow and white.

Medicine Wheel

She changed from white to black, and then to red, then yellow. The colours symbolize the four races originating from four directions of the earth and embody concepts such as the four seasons and the sacred path of both the sun and human beings. The red represents Indigenous People endowed as stewards of the land.

Spending four days with the people, White Buffalo Calf Woman taught them seven ways of achieving spiritual balance through Seven Sacred Teachings and ceremonial prayers:

  • The Sweat Lodge ritual for total purification;
  • The Naming Ceremony for child naming;
  • The Healing Ceremony to restore health to the body, mind and spirit;
  • The Adoption Ceremony for the making of relatives;
  • The Marriage Ceremony for uniting partners;
  • The Vision Quest for communing with the Creator in search of wisdom;
  • The Sundance Ceremony to pray for the well-being of all.
Branches are bent forming a hut-like structure in the forest, a hole is dug in the ground in the center.

A sweat lodge frame made of bent willow branches, circa 1995.


Upon departure, she left the sacred bundle and promised to return to restore harmony and spiritual balance in the world. Women continue to be vital features in legends and myths.