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Liam and the White Bison

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Liam loves bison. The bison is his favorite animal, and has been since he first saw them in North Dakota when he was little. Bison help him tap into the prairie landscape and Native American history.
White Cloud and this year's calf, who carries her albinistic genes...

And my little towhead has embraced the Native American reverence for the rare albino bison, and the white bison has become his spirit guide. Some kids have superheroes or the Incredible Hulk; my boy dreams of white bison. There's a symmetry to that which pleases me, especially since you can't tell a child what to dream of; he must come up with it on his own.

He watched the bison through a spotting scope for quite awhileand then let Phoebe have a turn while he called his friend Will in Ohio to tell him the amazing news that he, Liam, was standing before not one, not two, but three albino bison in Jamestown, North Dakota!

It was hard for Liam to convey to someone who's never dreamt of white bison what this meant to him. Perhaps his snow-white hair makes him feel a kinship with them the rest of us can't. He's a pale rider.

So I have found him a little turquoise deerskin pouch, and in the pouch is a carved white bison fetish, and a tuft of hair from the white bison at the Buffalo Museum. We got it by reaching through the chain link and grabbing it off some weedtops. He wears the pouch with its precious inclusions around his neck, and tries very hard not to take it off and forget where he put it down.

Liam's spirit pouch has already been forgotten in a pocket and sent through the wash once, and everything is fine, except that the wool no longer smells so deliciously of bison.

Liam asks me often if it's OK to have a favorite animal that is so rare. At a Montana museum, he saw and was deeply moved by an exhibit on the extermination of American bison. We reassure him that bison are still very much a part of the American landscape, and their numbers are rising again.
Even the white ones, the powerful and sacred ones.


What a wonderful totem for Liam to have! I found this on the internet (I couldn't find Bison, only buffalo):

"A Buffalo totem will seek to help you establish a deep connection to Mother Earth
and it will ask you to help the endangered species of our planet.
He will bring you strength of character and an independent spirit"

I find the idea of animal totems fascinating. I just did a post about them last week!

The Woodland Buffalo in Northern Alberta have been displeaced and are in ill health because of the oil mining in the Boreal forest. One of the oil companies has a "showcase" herd of bison that stands out all alone in field -- not their natural habitat. An company exec I met was visibly proud of this. Then I met a Cree elder, and all she could say was, "those poor buffalo."

I think she would have a lot of time for Liam.

Very sweet: your post, the bison, and your wonderful son.

Beautiful posts about the bison. Really cool Liam is so passionate about them. What wonderful experiences for him and Phoebe!

He's a little old for it, but there's a wonderful picture book called Buffalo Music by Tracey Fern that I think Liam would enjoy. It's a story I never heard before Fiona and I found the book, about how a woman named Mary Ann Goodnight helped save bison from extinction, back in the day. Hope you can find it, it's a good read with pictures worth poring over.

I love knowing that your Liam has a heart for the white buffalo. A totem animal is never out of fashion like superheroes can be. It is a magical thing forever.

Look for South Dakota author Paul Goble's book, The Legend of the White Buffalo Woman, for Liam. His books are wonderful for all ages, I have several of his signed prints hanging in our house. He is one of my daughters' favorites, they often give the prints as wedding or baby gifts.
Prairie Edge Gallery in Rapid City has prints, originals and is easily findable on the Web.

Christine, I love your additional information.
Wendi, thank you for correctly spelling poring. And we will look for that book. He's already read the White Buffalo Woman book.
Robin, exactly.
LOG, he would sit rapt and listen to her as long as she'd talk.

Do you have a totem animal?

I second Murr's question. I'm so impressed with Liam and his totem Bison. With (or without) a good bathing, they're gorgeous ;-)

This touches my heart--I think you do that every time you write about Liam. There is such a gentleness about this sweet boy. And, truth be told, I am reminded of my own sweet boy (now 37). Wonderful that Liam eschews what may be trendy or popular in favor of what is true.

I would imagine that even if the pouch should become misplaced someday, or the hair tucked safely inside it, barely there, Liam's memories of seeing Bison and finding them worthy of a young boy's dreams will be something wonderful--something that he will have always with him.

My totem is the turkey vulture. This post kind of explains it. I also have a monster chapter in my next book about the whole thing. On the post: If you stick with the story (which is one of my favorite ones) it will become clear at the end.

If the photos won't load, click on the little boxes where they ought to be.

What a sweet story about Liam and his love for the albino bison. My heart all but melts every time you write about his tender spirit. :c)

Lovely story. It reminds me of my little tow-headed son (years ago) and his deep love for everything nordic and white. Wonderful thought

Oh yes, his totem will stay with him. At age 7, my oldest became enraptured of wolves. As I mentioned previously, we 'adopted' one for him one year for a Christmas gift. (He told one of his sleep-over friends "I have a wolf!" and the big eyed child said "You DO? In your BACKYARD?"). At age 22, he still supports a wolf preservation group on his own. One year in his stocking, Santa left a totem stone...of a wolf, naturally. He still has it.

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