Officials in Hunt County, Texas, have closed their case over the death of a white buffalo calf, claiming the animal died of disease and was not slain. The animal had been born on May 14, 2011, at the Lakota Ranch in Greenville, Texas, and was named Lightning Medicine Cloud. Ranch owner Arby Little Soldier claims he found the animal dead early this past May with only its head and tail remaining. The next day he found the calf’s mother dead. Both deaths, he believed, could have been hate crimes. White buffaloes are extremely rare and the birth of one is considered a sacred symbol in most Native American communities.
But, a veterinarian who examined both Lightning Medicine Cloud and his mother declared that the calf died of blackleg disease, a highly fatal ailment that primarily afflicts young cattle. The spores of blackleg can live in soil for many years. They enter the animal’s body through the digestive tract where the organism creates small punctures. Blackleg cannot be transmitted from an infect animal to a healthy one, but it is preventable through vaccination.
Hunt County Sheriff Randy Meeks stated that Arby Little Soldier didn’t contact his office until 6 days after Lightning Medicine Cloud turned up dead. Initial photos of the body showed it wasn’t skinned. Supposedly Little Soldier had wanted to consult with his elders before contacting the sheriff’s office.
I can understand why owners of the Lakota Ranch didn’t want to consult with police first. The Native American community, as a whole, has had a tense relationship with mainstream law enforcement for decades. But, as significant as white buffaloes are from a cultural standpoint, there’s no reason the Lakota Ranch should have waited 6 days before contacting Hunt County officials immediately. This ultimately negates the severity of real hate crimes against Indigenous Americans, which often have gone unreported and uninvestigated.
Sheriff Meeks said he will re-open the investigation if new evidence or witnesses surface.