FARMINGTON, Pa. – At the Woodland Zoo in Farmington, a refuge for abused and mistreated animals, owners Jill and Sonny Herring, can no longer afford to stay in business. Two sacred animals born under miraculous circumstances, a white and black buffalo, are in jeopardy of being sold to the highest bidder. Two potential bids are coming from commercial enterprises that may exploit the sacred animals.
Michael “Hawk” Goodfire, Shawnee and Holikachuk, has been with the buffalo since their births and has lived on the same property with them since 2008. “Through visions that were given, taken into ceremony and interpreted by recognized spiritual leaders, I was asked to be here with these two. To watch over them and ensure they are kept sacred.”
However, Goodfire is worried that since the Herrings can no longer care for the animals, the sacred buffalo may have to be sold to someone who may not understand their sacredness. “That which is sacred should never be sold.”
Many Native people, including Goodfire, claim miracles surrounded the births of these buffalo. The birth, according to numerous accounts, happened when “Barney and Betty,” two black buffaloes first birthed a normal black male in May 2006. Five months later, four months short of a normal buffalo’s nine-month gestation period, Betty again gave birth, this time to a white male buffalo.
“Just having a white buffalo is one in 10 million,” Goodfire said. “But if you add in the fact that this buffalo was born in five months, immediately after the other black male, the odds are impossible.”
According to Goodfire, the miracles continued. Barney and the other black male were sold, and another two-year-old female was brought to the zoo. The Herrings were assured the female had never been in contact with any male buffalo. But nine months after arriving, she gave birth to another black female buffalo. Additionally, acting outside the behavior of young buffalo, the white buffalo immediately befriended the new black female.
Other unusual events have occurred since the birth of the white buffalo. Two red tail hawks living in the area turned white in one day. The female was killed on the highway, the red tail hawk chose a new mate and that female also turned white. In 2007, a bald eagle, which is extremely rare to the area, flew directly to the white buffalo and spent the day with the animal. In 2008, a white deer was born at the zoo and would commonly break free from its enclosure to join the white buffalo and was never harmed.
The owners of the zoo have never claimed the buffalo are from virgin births, but Native elders and spirituals have. Pilgrimages to the site have been made by a multitude of honored elders including Mary Johnson, Lakota; Bennie Blue Thunder, Shoshone; Mitchell Bush, Onondaga; Marilyn Black Elk, Lakota; David Swallow, Lakota; Nyla Helper, Lakota; and Harry Dakota, Oneida.
With the Herrings having to close the zoo, the buffalo can no longer be supported. Goodfire is doing everything in his power to alert Native people about maintaining the sacredness of the buffalo.
“These two buffalo have come for the people. This is what we have prayed for; something to unify all our relatives – black, white, red and yellow. This is what we have Sundanced for. Now, these two need all of our relatives to help them. The highest bid for the buffalo is now $25,000. As little as a $5 donation given from everyone in Indian country is more than enough to obtain them. We have two offers standing from private owners. One is a farm in West Virginia. The other is a sanctuary in Texas, with other buffalo.” The only problem “is that these folks would have to go into debt to do this.”
Goodfire prays that a large enough donation could enable his organization, The Buffalo Messengers to become nonprofit and purchase the zoo from the Herrings. “If we could raise $1.2 million, we could buy this entire facility, and create a spiritual center around the buffalo. This would be the best thing. At least we need to ensure that they are kept sacred, the owners will not donate them to us. But if we can raise the money, we can at least match the highest bid.
“Ceremony has been done here. All of those who have conducted those ceremonies have said the same thing. These two should not be sold. They should remain here on this property. However, that is going to be a huge task. Not impossible, because I believe if we, the Native people, come together, we can do this. Buffalo Messengers can become a nonprofit and acquire grants to maintain everything. We just have to raise the initial funds before they are sold on Sept. 1, which is the deadline.”
For more information about the sacred buffalo or to donate visit www.buffalomessengers.org or call Goodfire at (215) 253-8865.