Native Village
Youth and Education news
January 1, 2011 Volume

 Pendleton to make white buffalo hair blend blankets
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Oregon: Pendleton Woolen Mills is making new Navajo-style blankets using wool and hair shed by a herd of white buffalo.

On a Oregon sanctuary, 11 white buffalo roam acres of isolated juniper forest. Their caretakers are Charles and Cynthia Hart-Button.

“I would rather Robert Redford and Kevin Costner were doing this,” Button joked. “But it fell in my backyard.”

Many Native American tribes consider white buffalo sacred.

“The significance of the white buffalo has been recognized by all the tribes that are buffalo culture people,” said Jim Stone, a Yankton-Yanktonai Sioux and director of the Intertribal Buffalo Council in Rapid City, S.D..  The white buffalo's presence is a prophesy of spiritual rebirth – “an indicator of better times coming to tribal people. Historically, that has been the view.”

In 1997, the first of the Oregon herd was born into a small herd of black bison in Arizona. The herd was owned by Dena and Jim Riley. Hart-Button worked with the couple for a decade, then brought the herd to Oregon when Jim died.

Ranching experts say fewer than 50 white buffalo live in the U.S. For 11 white buffalo to be born into such a small herd is mind-boggling. “It's like winning a lottery ticket 11 times,”  Hart-Button said.

The idea for weaving white buffalo shed hair into Pendleton blankets came from Paul Hait. The 1960 Olympic gold medalist had persuaded Hart-Button that central Oregon should be their home. i

Pendleton Woolen Mills hopes to make 200 of these blankets in 2011. “It's a unique story, it's a feel-good story in some ways,” said Robert Christnacht, Pentleton spokesperson.

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