Religion & Animals

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, October 1994:

Native Americans are flocking to
Dave and Valerie Heider’s bison ranch in
southern Wisconsin to see the first albino
bison born in more than a century. Sioux leg-
end holds that long ago during a famine a beau-
tiful young woman brought them a sacred pipe,
taught them to use it, and told them how to hunt
and use bison. Promising to return, she walked
away and became a white bison. The albino
mutation was believed lost when the bison were
driven near extinction late in the 19th century.

The legend inspired the formation of the Ghost
Dancer cult by the Paiute leader Wovoka, a.k.a.
Jack Wilson, after the eclipse of January 1,
1889. Influenced by Shaker Christianity,
Wovoka proclaimed that he’d had a vision in
which the earth died and was reborn, without
Caucasians, while all Native Americans were
resurrected into a Garden of Eden. His follow-
ers believed they were protected from bullets by
“ghost shirts.” After the death of Sitting Bull,
Ghost Dancers were among the Sioux led by Big
Foot who fled into South Dakota rather than go
to a reservation. On December 28, 1890, one
day after they were captured by the 7th Cavalry,
near Wounded Knee, a Ghost Dancer reputedly
shot a cavalry officer; cavalrymen killed about
200 men, women, and children within a matter
of minutes. Wovoka lived on until 1932. A
year later, a Sioux shaman prophesied the birth
of a white bison who would reunite Native tribes
in peace. The Heiders have refused many cash
offers for the white bison, including one from
bowhunter Ted Nugent, who recorded the song
Great White Buffaloabout 20 years ago.
Thomas Niles, U.S. ambassador to
Greece, reportedly spent an early September
night on a cot outside the Iviron Monastery on
Mt. Athos, rather than sleep without his dog,
Mr. Wheat. Mt. Athos, an autonomous Greek
Orthodox religious state on a 37-mile-long
peninsula, has barred dogs and females of any
species since A.D. 850.
A Bible-clutching man climbed a 20-
foot fence September 12 to test his faith by con-
fronting the Asiatic lions at the London
Zoo––and was mauled by three lions. He fit the
description of a 27-year-old schizophrenic who
was mauled in a similar incident in 1992, but at
deadline it was unclear if he was the same man.
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