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Mythological Creatures Are Among Us: Guardians of the Sacred White Bison

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Cynthia Hart-Button and husband Charles are the Guardians of the Sacred White Bison. They have cared for and nurtured a small herd of these rare creatures for nearly two decades. This couple’s dedication to each other and their bison is, as the Navaho expression goes: A Walk in Beauty . And this is how it all came to be.

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A Walk in Beauty

Cynthia spent her childhood on a ranch near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. She was born in 1954 to Uriah Guss and Phyllis Garrison. Cynthia’s heritage is unique to say the least. Her mother was of Welsh descent, coming from a long line of Celtic clairvoyants. Her father, of Lakota/German ancestry, was related to the great Lakota holy man Sitting Bull. Uriah’s traditional name was Tatanka Ska (White Buffalo). “Little Golden Bear,” as Cynthia was called by her father, had a rather idyllic childhood. Her father was blessed with a special gift for training and healing animals. He was called upon by various zoos as well as Ringling Bros. & Barnum & Bailey Circus to attend to exotic animals. Between school, ranch chores, dance classes, visits from circus animals and her love of competitive barrel racing, there was little time for a bright, energetic girl to be idle or bored. Cynthia traveled to foreign lands with her family and experienced much for a youngster. One might say she was a precocious child.

We cannot continue with this intriguing story until first explaining a unique situation in the childhood of this extraordinary woman. Cynthia was born visually impaired. As the blind often do, she developed extra sensory skills to compensate. When she was six years old, her father took in a family from India who could not find any hospitality in town. This family taught Cynthia yoga exercises which partially gave her sight! As a result, she gained a worldly view, and yet, retained her extra sensory skills. On occasion, Cynthia’s gifts helped find lost objects or kids who got lost in a wooded parkland adjacent to the family ranch. After working as a teen model for cosmetics and fashion, as Cynthia came into her twenties, she launched a career as an intuitive on a radio talk-show in Ohio. Her reputation as a clairvoyant became well known. However, an unusual seismic event would dramatically influence the course of her life.

In 1980, while climbing Mt. McKinley, Cynthia had a vision of an intense earthquake in Ohio. She realized lives and property would be in danger when the quake hit. She hurried back to Ohio to warn people. What?! An earthquake in America’s Midwest? No way. Weeks after Cynthia uttered this premonition in public, an intense earthquake rocked Northern Kentucky and rumbled all the way up to Canada! It measured 5.1 on the Richter scale causing moderate damage in Ohio and Kentucky. Thankfully, her reputation for accurate predictions convinced employees of a nearby nuclear power plant to shift a nuclear waste storage site on Lake Erie to a more secure, inland location. That’s the good news. Difficulties began for Cynthia when she became a media sensation after her prediction came true. In public and at home, people began hounding her for readings and healing. It became apparent to Cynthia that she would have to relocate to have any semblance of a personal life. A family friend came to her aid with an offer to work as a ranch hand in Sedona, Arizona. A bit overwhelmed by sudden fame, Cynthia welcomed the opportunity. A picturesque high desert plateau richly steeped in ancient native traditions became her sanctuary, nudging this remarkable young woman closer to her true calling.

A Guardian Comes of Age

In Sedona, Cynthia regrouped and became part of Arizona’s unique southwestern culture. She worked for a time as a ranch hand and a pack mule tour guide on the south rim of the Grand Canyon. Part of her quest in coming West was to fulfill her father’s wish that she seek the essence of her Native American heritage. Uriah wanted his daughter to find balance and inner peace. Cynthia traveled to various tribal areas across the western U.S. in search of answers. She also met and married the love of her life, musician Charles Button. Life was good.

In 1988, Cynthia’s father Uriah became terminally ill. Her world suddenly fell apart. This father and daughter were so very close. She couldn’t believe what was happening. Little Golden Bear braved her sorrow and was a precious joy to her father in his final days. As he lay dying of cancer, Uriah told his daughter he was glad he raised her on a ranch because in the coming years, she would need those skills to care for The Sacred White Buffalo. Cynthia was surprised and a bit skeptical of her father’s words, thinking it might be a dying man’s feverish dream. After all, she was familiar with the Sacred White Buffalo Prophecy, but the white bison itself was practically a mythical being. Had Uriah foreseen something in his daughter’s future? Cynthia thought it strange, but her father’s dying words stuck with her. Although initially skeptical, in the back of her mind she believed her father and wanted to be prepared. Cynthia always carries around an old dog-eared copy of the book: Black Elk Speaks .

Hehakasapa - Black Elk (left) Elk (right) - 1887 (Edward Curtis, Author provided).

Hehakasapa - Black Elk (left) Elk (right) - 1887 (Edward Curtis, Author provided).

This book is one of the premiere psalms of modern Native American spirituality. She was honored with her copy by Black Elk’s grandson Wallace. It is a book that has inspired and spoken to her. The wise words of Hehakaspa (Black Elk) would show her the way. Cynthia had to prepare. Maybe the Vision Quest Black Elk mentions in his book would be the best way for her to do so .

A Vision Quest

In the early 1990’s, Cynthia decided to go through with a Vision Quest. This Native American spiritual rite of passage is for those who wish to discover their personal power and life’s path. It was a daring decision meant to deepen her traditional spiritual essence and prepare her for what was to come.  Hollis Littlecreek, an Elder of the Creek Nation was living in Sedona then. He was teaching Cynthia traditional ways. She mentioned the vision quest to her mentor and he agreed it would be useful. What Mr. Littlecreek didn’t mention was the modern version of this spiritual sojourn had been pared down to a week or less. What Cynthia didn’t mention was her intent to go on a traditional spiritual quest. She did so, unaware of the modern way. Cynthia isolated herself deep in the wilderness, dedicating a year of her life to solitary meditation.

Cascade Mountains. (CC0)

Cascade Mountains. ( CC0)

Cynthia Hart knew she must complete a Vision Quest in order to prepare for the challenges that lay ahead. For this purpose, she chose a cave in the Cascade Mountains, high above her friend Shane’s property in Washington State. The Cascades are no joke. It’s one of America’s most lush and rugged ranges. This rainforest is loaded with wildlife of all description, including top predators who will eat human beings, especially during the harsh snow-bound months. Cynthia did not come unprepared. As companions on her vision quest, two Alaskan Tundra Wolves came along that she had raised from pups. These amazing snow-white wolves literally saved her life during this year long hiatus. This marvelous story was recently published (Feb. 2018). It is an intimate autobiography entitled: The Light Within: My Journey Home to the White Buffalo and reveals sage insights for vision quest initiates as well as Cynthia’s personal account of this profound spiritual experience. The book also gives us a look at her life.

Courtesy of White Bison Association. Courtesy of Gretchen Del Rio

Courtesy of White Bison Association. Courtesy of Gretchen Del Rio

After her incredible quest in the Cascades, Cynthia ran across her former mentor Hollis Littlecreek back in Sedona. He was glad to see her and wondered where she had been hiding for so long? Cynthia told Littlecreek of her year long hiatus. She then discovered the modern vision quest could be completed in a week or less! They had a good laugh about that. Her preparation was complete.

A Vision Comes to Life

In November of 2001, Cynthia and Charles Button crossed paths with the white bison. The Riley family had sired two white bison females on their Wyoming ranch. Cynthia heard about this and wanted to support the wellbeing of these amazing animals. She also wanted to fulfill the Riley’s wish to bring their bison to a ranch near Flagstaff, Arizona. Cynthia organized a fundraiser in Sedona to do so. The fundraiser went well and the Riley’s moved to Spirit Mountain Ranch outside Flagstaff. Cynthia and Charles visited the bison at the Flagstaff ranch soon afterwards. With his health failing, Jim Riley asked Cynthia and Charles to caretake his bison part-time while he recovered. Fate, synchronicity, divine providence or co-incidence, call it as you see it, her father’s prophetic words filled Cynthia’s eyes with tears of joy and her heart with warm recollections as she fed the white bison for the first time. Her father’s vision was right on after-all.

You Tube Video:

White Bison Association feeding time with Cap & the White Bison Herd

The first white bison born into the Riley family was Miracle Moon, delivered on April 30 th of 1997 at their ranch in Colony, Wyoming. Big Momma was the mother of Miracle Moon. They moved afterwards to the Dream Maker Ranch in South Dakota, located near to where White Buffalo Calf Woman appeared to the Teton tribes so long ago. In 2001, when the Riley’s moved to a ranch outside Flagstaff, Arizona, they met up with Cynthia and Charles Button. A handful of calves with white bison DNA were born into the family there.

In 2008, Jim Riley passed on. His widow was disabled from a car crash and relinquished care and custody of the bison to Cynthia and Charles. They were now the sole guardians of the herd. Four years later, the new Guardians of the Sacred White Bison moved to a ranch outside of Bend, Oregon. As it turned out, this ranch didn’t fit their needs. The herd was growing too. Where could they find a safe, hospitable place for their thriving bison family?

During Thanksgiving weekend of 2015, the Guardians of the Sacred White Bison moved to a historic ranch outside of Upper Lake, in Lake County, California. The intent was to make this special Northern Californian community a permanent sanctuary for the bison. However, circumstance intervened, sending Cynthia and Charles on another path. In late August of 2017, this dynamic couple and their mythical bison moved cross country to a lush 200-acre ranch in the Ohio Valley. The Guardians and their herd arrived safely in Ohio on August 27 th of 2017. With her “second sight,” Cynthia had seen wildfires coming to California and moved the herd just weeks before the Tubbs fire devoured parts of the City of Santa Rosa, and other fires threatened rural towns near her ranch. In August of 2018, the area immediately surrounding her former Lake County ranch burned in another wildfire. This monstrous inferno, known as the Ranch Complex , scorched a half million acres of forest land.

Ironically, Cynthia has come full circle, returning to Ohio where her journey began nearly four decades ago. A magnificent medicine wheel has been drawn in the earth across the heartland of North America by the Guardians of the Sacred White Bison. Aho!

*To keep informed about the White Bison, dates of community projects & spiritual workshops, or to make a tax-deductible contribution to help sustain the herd, go to: www.whitebisonassociation.com

Special thanks to Cynthia Hart-Button, Kimey Jones, Clayton Duncan, and contributing editor Kari Noren-Hoshal. Artistic images were graciously donated by Gretchen Del Rio: www.gretchendelrio.com and Pamela Rose McCabe: www.pamela-mccabe.artistwebsites.com - Mitakuye Oyasin (All my relations).

For more about the story of Cynthia Hart-Button, read: The Light Within: My Journey Home To The White Buffalo by Cynthia Hart-Button

Top image: White Buffalo             Source: Courtesy of the White Bison Association

By Kevin Engle

References

Bancroft, Hubert H. History of California . San Francisco: The History Co., 1888. Volume IV, Pg. 501- 502.

Belasco, Susan & Linck Johnson. Native American Origin and Creation Stories. Fingers (Oglala Elder) Interview. Dr. J. R. Walker. Circa 1896. Bedford Anthology of American Literature: Beginnings to 1865 . 2006. Vol. I, Pg. 48-51.

Coy, Owen C. The Last Expidition of Josiah Gregg. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, 1916. Pg. 41-49.

Gregg, Josiah. Commerce of the Prairies. New York: Astob House, 1844.

Hart-Button, Cynthia. Interviews. Kevin Engle. Sept., 2016

National Bison Association https://bisoncentral.com/ Accessed Sept. 2016.

Neihard, John G. Black Elk Speaks . William Morrow & Co., 1932.

Woods, L.K. Society of the California Pioneers Quarterly , Vol. IX # 1. March 1932.

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