Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Native Americans to celebrate white bison in Conn.

GOSHEN, Conn. — The birth of a white bison, among the rarest of animals, is bringing Native Americans who consider it a sacred event to celebrate at one of the least likely of places: a farm in New England.

Hundreds of people, including tribal elders from South Dakota, are expected to attend naming ceremonies this month at the northwestern Connecticut farm of Peter Fay, a fourth-generation Goshen farmer.

Native Americans in the area have come with gifts of tobacco and colored flags for Fay and the bull calf since it was born there June 16, and Fay is planning to offer his hay field as a campsite for the expected crowds.

"They say it's going to bring good things to all people in the world. How can you beat that? That's the way I look at it," Fay said.

Connecticut farms host only about 100 bison, a tiny fraction of the populations in Western states, such as South Dakota, the home of Sioux tribes that attach the greatest spiritual meaning to white bison. As some push for greater recognition of the bison's significance to both the United States and Native Americans, advocates say the event on the far-flung East Coast is well-placed to boost exposure for the cause.

Fay, whose family traditionally stuck to dairy farming, took on bison four years ago as a hobby, enamored by the animals' toughness. He built his herd to 40 before recently selling half of them.

Word spread rapidly after the arrival of the white bison, which experts say is as rare as one in 10 million, and Fay invited native Americans for the ceremonies at his farm below Mohawk Mountain. He and his two daughters were asked to participate in the celebrations, which will include a feast and talks by the elders.

Marian White Mouse, a member of the Oglala Lakota tribe in South Dakota, said 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. White Mouse's family of four is flying to Connecticut for the ceremonies.

"For me, it's like a surreal event. I never thought in my wildest dreams I would ever come in contact with one of them in my lifetime," said White Mouse, 51, of Wanblee, S.D.

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