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May 5, 2013

A buffalo and its message lost one year ago

GREENVILLE — Two years ago, the birth of a rare white buffalo at a ranch just outside of Greenville was hailed as a miracle event, as well as a blessing for Native Americans and for the entire community.

One year ago, the death of Lightning Medicine Cloud sparked months of controversy and a criminal investigation which, instead of leading to charges, revealed the calf had died of disease.

Arby Little Soldier said no special commemorations are planned for the anniversary.

“We took a mourning for the year,” he said, adding there are plans to conduct one final powwow at his Lakota Ranch, where Lightning Medicine Cloud was born on May 11, 2011. “We’re not going to do it until fall. It will be September or October.”

Little Soldier, great-great-great grandson of Sitting Bull, has said the birth of a white buffalo is a one-in-ten-million occurrence, and fulfilled a prophecy that has lived in the hearts of many Native Americans for centuries.

The body of Lightning Medicine Cloud was found at the ranch on April 30, 2012 and the body of his mother, Buffalo Woman the next day, shortly before a powwow in Lightning’s honor was conducted at the facility just west of Greenville on U.S. Highway 380.

Little Soldier claimed Lightning had been massacred and skinned and told media outlets he and his wife were considered suspects.

The Hunt County Sheriff’s Office joined the Texas Rangers and other agencies in an investigation which continued until late August 2012, when Sheriff Randy Meeks announced the animals died of natural causes.

Meeks said according to a veterinarian’s report, both buffalo appeared to have died from a condition known as “Black Leg” and that two other buffalo had died from the condition at the ranch since Lightning Medicine Cloud’s body was discovered. No criminal charges were filed in the case.

“I still believe his death was by natural causes,” Meeks said recently. “However, it was a difficult investigation because of the conditions and circumstances involved.”

Meeks said his office wasn’t called to the ranch until days after Lightning Medicine Cloud’s body had been discovered and buried.

“It was unfortunate that this situation received so much media attention,” Meeks said. “I believed the fire was fueled by outside sources that made this incident much more than what it was.”

Little Soldier said Lightning’s message was lost in all of the hysteria of his death.

“I’m doing what the elders said to do,” Little Soldier said. “Everybody got away from what this calf brought.”

The observance planned for this fall will be the final powwow at the ranch. Little Soldier said he is planning on selling the property and moving to Arizona.

Meeks said he still considers the Little Soldiers his friends.

“The events of a year ago should not interfere with that relationship,” Meeks said. “Lightning Medicine Cloud was a significant sign for Native Americans and his short life and death will be remembered for quite some time.”

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