Bronze statue of the White Buffalo Calf Woman, by Lee Leunig and Sherri Treeby
The White Buffalo Calf Woman is central to the spirituality and culture of the Lakota Sioux people. Lakota oral tradition relates that she appeared to them from the north as a beautiful young woman dressed in a brilliant white dress to give the tribe the sacred rituals which form the basis of their religion. She also took the form of a sacred white buffalo calf. When she left the tribe, she told them that she will come back in the future.
The medicine man Crow Dog explains her importance:
"This holy woman brought the sacred buffalo calf pipe to the Sioux. There could be no Indians without it. Before she came, people didn't know how to live. They knew nothing. The Buffalo Woman put her sacred mind into their minds."
Perhaps the sacred pipe (chanunpa) represents the tube-like shushumna nadi, the central channel of the subtle body, through which the Kundalini, passes like smoke. She explained to them that it represented the living breath of the Great Spirit.
The pipe, is the holiest ritual object of the Lakota, and was traditionally loaded with a mixture of sweet smelling herbs, roots, leaves and barks, of which tabacco was only one ingredient. The smoke was not inhaled, and the use of the pipe was reserved only for very special occasions. It was in no way a habitual abuse of tabacco.