Rare white bison still attracting visitors
HARTFORD, Conn. -- Its coat has turned from light to brown, but the rare white bison that caused a stir among Native Americans is still attracting visitors a year after its birth.
People eager for a glimpse of the animal often call on the Mohawk Bison Farm in Goshen, where it was born a year ago today, and tribal members from South Dakota are planning a second trip to Connecticut to celebrate the bison they see as a symbol of hope and unity. Experts say the white bison is as rare as one in 10 million.
The farm's owner, Peter Fay, said the bull stands out among his other bison more for its personality since turning brown with its winter coat.
"He's out with almost 30 of them, all the same age," Fay said. "He's the only one of the 30 who actually charges me."
The bison was named Yellow Medicine Dancing Boy in a ceremony last July at Fay's farm, where dozens of Native Americans wearing the garb of their ancestors were among the hundreds who turned out for the celebration.
Marian White Mouse, a member of the Oglala Lakota tribe in South Dakota, said some members are planning another visit to the farm below Mohawk Mountain in mid-July to celebrate the bison's birthday.
"We all honor sacred white animals wherever they might be," she said. "All honor goes to Mr. Fay and his farm because he has probably been overwhelmed by people because they know the significance of how sacred it is."
The oral traditions of many tribes honor white bison. White Mouse said the birth of the Connecticut bison was a sign from a prophet, the White Buffalo Calf Woman, who helped her tribe endure times of strife and famine. She said it was ordained by prophesy keepers that the sacred bison would change colors to white, yellow, brown and black.
Fay, who still receives calls nearly every day from people who want to see the bison, said it is generally treated the same as his other animals, and he plans to begin using it for breeding in about a year.
Tens of millions of bison once roamed America's plains, but the overhunted population shrank to about 1,000 toward the end of the 1800s. Their numbers have rebounded to several hundred thousand.
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