19th Generation Keeper of the “Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe” of the Lakota, Dakota and Nakota Great Sioux Nation

Chief Arvol

Arvol Looking Horse


The following was taken from,
“White Buffalo Teachings”

by Chief Arvol Looking Horse.


Story of Pte-san win-yan

(White Buffalo Calf Woman)

Nineteen generations ago the beautiful spirit we now refer to as Pte-san win-yan (White Buffalo Calf Woman) brought the Sacred C’anupa to our People.  She taught the People the Seven Sacred Rites and how to walk on Mother Earth in a Sacred manner. She said, “Only the good shall see the Pipe…the bad shall not see it or touch it.”

She arrived among us in this way...

At that time, not long after the Flood, the People still followed the buffalo, but they had forgotten the Creator and the teachings of the buffalo.  They were trying to control one another, be more than who they were.  The buffalo disappeared and the People were starving and crying.  They grew too weak even to move camp, and so they sent out scouts to look for buffalo or other game.  But always they returned empty-handed.

Then one day they sent out two scouts, who saw not even a rabbit the whole day.  Dejected, they started back to camp from their failed hunt, traveling through the woods and rolling hills, northeast of the sacred Black Hills, just up the river from where I live today.

If was a beautiful day, the sky blue with a few white clouds.  As the two scouts were returning to the camp, they saw a woman come over a hill, and they watched in awe, wondering what a woman alone could be doing out there in the middle of nowhere.

Dressed in a beautiful white buckskin dress, this woman approached them carrying a bundle in her arms.

One of the scouts, seeing the beauty of the woman, felt lust for her. He said, “She’s so beautiful, I think I’ll take her for a wife.”

As they were talking, she came closer and she pointed to the one with the bad thoughts, as if beckoning him.  He went towards her, thinking to take her.

The other scout tried to stop him saying, “She’s sent by the Great Spirit.  She’s the answer to the People’s prayers for help.  She must be a Spirit-woman.  Don’t approach her with such thoughts on your mind.”

But the lustful scout refused to listen.

As he reached for the woman, a swirling cloud suddenly came down and enveloped him.  When the cloud lifted, he was laying there at her feet, all bones, a skeleton with snakes crawling from his head.

Then the Spirit-woman pointed to the other scout, who trembled before her, and she said, “Go, tell your People what you have seen here.  Tell them to build an altar of sage and cherry branches, and also to put up a great tipi, and I will come tomorrow from where the sun sets.  Tell them I have a great gift to give them, a gift kept in this sacred Bundle.”

And she told him, “Tell them just what I have said.  Don’t make more than what it is and don’t make less than what it is!”

The scout thanked her for the Message. Still filled with fear, he backed slowly away from the woman, then ran back to the camp and told the People what had happened and what the Spirit-woman had told them—no more, and no less.

In the camp, the Buffalo People followed the instructions given by the scout and put up their fines tipi and prepared the altar with sage and cherry branches to each cardinal direction.

Behold—the very next day, as she had promised, she returned out of the sunset. As she moved toward them, carrying the Bundle in her outstretched arms, she sang a beautiful song that we still sing today.

Walking clockwise around the altar of sage and cherry branches, she set down the Sacred Bundle in the altar, then opened it to reveal the sacred C’anupa, the Pipe of Pipes, which we still keep at Green Grass.

She told them, “This C’anupa, you will make direct personal contact with Wakan Tankan (the Great Mystery).”

She said, “Following the Way of this Sacred C’anupa, you will walk in a sacred way upon the Earth, for the Earth is your grandmother and your mother and she is sacred.”

She told them, “The red stone of the C’anupa’s bowl represents the blood of the People, and it also represents the female.  And the wooden stem represents the Tree of Life, and it also represents the male. The Tree of Life also represents the root of our ancestors, and as this Tree grows so does the spirit of the People.”

She said, “When you put the C’anupa’s bowl and stem together, you connect the world above and the world below. The only time the C’anupa is put together is when you are in prayer.  And when you pray with the C’anupa, humble yourself.  Present your prayers to all four Sacred Directions, and then pray to the Great Spirit above and Mother Earth below. Sing your songs and pray for life, peace, harmony and happiness.”

She warned, “You must have a good heart and a good mind to go to the ceremonies. Honor the Sacred Places, the Sacred Ceremonies and the Sacred Sites. Each Sacred Site is an altar to the Great Spirit.  Gather there often and pray the prayers and sing the songs I have taught you.  In time, you will understand the meaning of the Seven Sacred Rites that come with this sacred Bundle.”

She left in a clockwise motion, returning to where the sun sets. On top of the hill, she stopped and looked back, then rolled over and became a young beautiful black buffalo.  She rolled over a second time, becoming a young beautiful red buffalo. The third time she rolled over she became a beautiful yellow buckskin buffalo, and the fourth time she became a young a young beautiful white buffalo. Then she walked over the hill and out of sight. This is where she received her name, Pte-san win-yan—White Buffalo Calf Woman. This where we got the four colors that we use in our ceremonies.

Pre-san win-yan—gifted us with the Seven Sacred Rites that still sustain our People today.

The I-ni-pi (Purification ceremony) was held in a round covered Lodge made of thin willows, symbolizing the ribs of Mother Earth. Once we used buffalo robes to cover the Lodge. We crawl into the Lodge, as grandchildren entering back into the womb of Mother Earth.  We understand that the Lodge on top of the earth is half of the circle and the other half of the circle is underneath, creating a full circle and the other half of the circle is underneath, creating a full circle, symbolizing Mother Earth.  After everyone enters the Lodge, the firs Beings of Creation, the Rock Nation—we call them the firs Beings of Creation, the Rock Nation—we call them Grandfathers—are brought in after being heated by the sacred fire and are placed in the central pit. The second Being of Creation—the Water of Life—is then offered to the Grandfathers, filling the Lodge with hot steam.  This steam is the sacred Breath of Life. Bringing the Grandfathers and the sacred Water together creates an energy of life call Wa-wa- kan.

In the Wi-wanyang wa-c’i-pi (Sun Dance ceremony), and individual first receives a dream to participate in the Sundance.  They dance for four days, going without food and water, as the only thing we own is our body. They can’t break the Circle once they go into ceremony. They can’t leave the arbor, as if they do, they become contaminated by other people’s thought and energy.  They must stay “wakan.”   The sacrifice is to the Tree of Life, represented by a Cottonwood Tree.  They dance facing the Sun from sunrise to sunset.  There is also an important protocol of going up on the hill, Han-ble-c’-ya, before you go into this alter.

Another of the Seven Sacred Rites is the Han-ble-c’i-ya, (Vision Quest ceremony)—literally meaning Crying for a Vision—the Great Sprit reveals to us our personal Instructions for following the Great Red Road of Life.  This Sacred Rite also requires four days of fasting from water and water.  We Can’t go more than four days, as our instructions say that the Han-ble-c’-ya is four days long, four consecutive years.

Another rite id the Hun-ka ka-g’a (Making of a relative)—an adoption ceremony. We adopt someone as a relative, sometimes to replace a relative who has passed on so the family hoop stays strong. Sometimes when we meet a person that we feel a deep closeness to, we would also adopt them, as either a sister, brother, Mother, Father, Auntie, Uncle, Grandma or Grandpa. An eagle-feather plume is used with a medicine wheel when the relative being adopted is a woman, and an eagle feather is used for the men. A giveaway feast are also part of this ceremony.

Another of the Seven Sacred Rites is a children’s cermony—the Ta-pa kah’g’o-ya (Throwing of the sacred ball).  As the child stands on a buffalo robe, four adults are chosen to stand at the Four Directions, telling the child the sacred Teachings as they throw them a ball made of buffalo hide, stuffed with buffalo hair. When times became difficult, when the buffalo were disappearing, a ball of sage, raw hide, or another replacement took its place.  People used what they had, the important thing was to keep the ceremony alive. When the child catches the ball, they received an understanding of the Teachings, which are told in their heart, and inscribed there, by the energy that comes into them through the ball.

In the Wi-yan I-na-j’in (Womanhood ceremony), a young woman reaching puberty learns her role as a Life-giver, receiving sons on becoming and being a mother. It is a recognition of honor in being a woman, a time of celebration, of knowing that the potential of life exists and the ability to create it.  She is taught about the sacred time of the month—called Is’-na ti (camps alone)-that she will experience from then on, known as “cleansing.”  She learns that during this time, she is able to release tremendous powers. She is taught that this power is not easy to control.  She learns what to do and what not to do during this monthly cleansing. During Is-na ti (camps alone). She may not prepare food, and the other women make sure she is fed. She can’t be around any ceremonies, especially around the C’anupa, or be around medicine and people that are taking medicine. She is taught the four stages of life; from a newborn spirit, to a young woman, to a Mother, to a Grandmother.

In the Na-g’iglu-ha (Keeping of the Spirit ceremony), a family that has lost a loved one keeps their spirit for one year.   A Spiritual Leader assists them in letting the deceased go in a good way, so they don’t cry and mourn for the spirit anymore. During this time, they feed  the spirit as if that person is still alive. The family also prepares a giveaway and feast to feed the people in memory of the their lost loved one, in what is called the “Spirit Releasing Ceremony”. We are taught that if the family continues to cry for the spirit after that it causes wa-ku-za, meaning to bring bad energy upon the family.

Before she lift, Pte-san-win-yan told the People,  “I brought you this sacred C’anupa, this symbol of Life.  You will carry these ceremonies and these songs from this time on, and you will live in balance with all life in Peace and happiness. You will make and carry a Sacred C’anupa and Bundles of your own.  Every C’anupa and make and use in the right way will be connected to the original C’anupa, the great Pipes of Pipes.

She also told us her Spirit would return to help us one day in times of great hardship, and that we would recognize her.

The C’anupa and the sacred knowledge must stay in the blood-line. My Grandmother, Lucy Bad Warrior Looking Horse, was the 18th Generation Keeper of the C’anupa. Before she went to the Spirit World, when I was 12, she told my father and me I was to be the 19th Keeper, as revealed to her in a dream.  She said I was the youngest ever to be the Keeper.  “The C’anupa chooses the Keeper,” she said.

She told me I would be forbidden ever to carry a weapon and never to have blood on my hands. I was told to remember the songs that go with the Bundle. She said the People would provide for my needs, and that I would never have to Vision Quest or Sundance unless I had a dream.  She said never use foul language, and I have listened. She said the Sacred C’anupa is a Spirit and that the bag it’s kept in is just as sacred.  The bag is called C’an-te o-j’u-ha (heart bag), meaning we should carry this in our heart with love and compassion. She said that when we offer tobacco to our relatives and to every and to every Spirit, such as our medicines, these energies would help us. I was told that the prayers should only be for health, protection, guidance and wisdom, nothing more.  Above all the C’anupa stands alone! Pte-san win-yan never brought anything more than the pure red willow tobacco medicine with the C’anupa. When the C’anupa is filled, our spirit should be pure, filled with no other influences of other medicines or of bad thoughts toward one another. I learned that there should always be a thank-you ceremony after a healing ceremony. So this is why we return to the Sacred Black Hills, to give thanks to the “Heart of Everything That Is.”

So this I share with you, the Knowledge of our ancestors.  I am doing this in hopes that our future generation will read this one day and begin a healing that our ceremonies need, which will also contribute toward the healing of our Sacred Mother Earth. I know that many will not agree with this truth, but it is time that someone needs to take a stand, in a good way!  These are my own words and thoughts.


Sun-kan Wan-kan Wi-c’as’ta,
Horse Man

Photographs & story
courtesy of dreamkeeper.,net



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