MANY OF THE TRIBES WHO CONSIDER THE TOWER A
SACRED place believe in the strength and
power of the four directions, represented by four colors (black, red,
yellow, and white). These colors are often used for prayer cloths seen
at the Tower. The Lakota story of White Buffalo Calf Woman tells the
origins of the four colors, the Sacred Pipe, and the Seven Sacred Rites.
The following is adapted from an account by Chief Arvol Looking Horse,
Keeper of the Pipe.
Not long after the Flood, the buffalo disappeared.
The People were starving and crying. Scouts looked for game but always
One day two scouts were sent out, and saw not even a
rabbit. As the scouts returned, a woman, carrying a bundle, came over a
hill dressed in a beautiful white buckskin dress. As the scouts talked,
she came closer and pointed to the scout with bad thoughts. He went
towards her, thinking to take her.
The other scout tried to stop him. "She's sent by the
Great Spirit. She's the answer to the People's prayer for helpa
The lustful scout refused to listen. As he reached
for the woman a swirling cloud suddenly enveloped him. When the cloud
lifted, his skeleton lay at her feet. Spirit-woman said, "Go; tell your
People what you have seen. I will come tomorrow from where the sun sets.
I have a great gift in this Sacred Bundle."
The next day she returned carrying the Bundle. She
sang a beautiful song that we still sing today. She walked clockwise
around the altar prepared by the Buffalo People, then set the Sacred
Bundle on the altar. She opened it to reveal the sacred C'anupa,
the Pipe of Pipes.
"This is the Sacred Pipe," she
said. "By smoking this C'anupa, you make personal contact
with Wakan Tankan (the Great Mystery). Following the way of this
Pipe, you will walk in a sacred way.
"The red stone of the C'anupa's bowl
represents the blood of the People. The wooden stem represents the Tree
of Life, the root of our ancestors. As this Tree grows, so does the
spirit of the People.
"The Sacred Pipe is put together in prayer,
connecting the worlds above and below. Present your prayers to all four
Sacred Directions, then pray to the Great Spirit above and Mother Earth
below. Sing your songs and pray for life, peace, harmony, and
She warned, "You must have a good heart and mind.
Honor the Sacred Places, Sacred Ceremonies, and Sacred Sites. Each Site
is an altar to the Great Spirit. Gather there often and pray and sing as
I have taught you."
She left in a clockwise motion, returning to where
the sun sets. On top of the hill, she looked back, rolled over and
became a black buffalo. She rolled over a second time, becoming a red
buffalo, the third time becoming a yellow buffalo, and the fourth time a
white buffalo. Then she walked over the hill and out of sight. There she
received her name, White Buffalo Calf Woman, and we received the four
colors used in our ceremonies.
The Seven Sacred Rites that sustain our People yet
today are: Purification ceremony; Sun Dance; Vision Quest;
Making of a relative (an adoption ceremony); Throwing of the sacred ball
(a children's ceremony); Womanhood ceremony; and Keeping of the
The Sacred Pipe is a Spirit. When the Sacred Pipe is
filled, our spirit should be pure. Prayers are for health, protection,
guidance, and wisdom; nothing more. A thank you ceremony always follows
a healing ceremony. That is why we return to the Sacred Black Hills, to
give thanks to the "Heart of Everything That Is."