May 12, 2011, Arby Little Soldier, owner of the Lakota Buffalo Ranch in east Texas discovered that one of his buffalo cows (dams) had given birth to a genuine white buffalo calf. A few months later during a celebration drawing over 2,000 admirers, the calf was named Lightning Medicine Cloud. The white calf represented the return of White Buffalo Woman and her promise to bring hope and help to the people. Arby Little Soldier announced, “The spiritual message behind this buffalo today is the hope of all nations to come together …”
Arby, with the help of the community, planned a grand celebration for the calf’s first birthday. But, one week before the event, they found the calf dead of what appeared to be a brutal murder/mutilation. The next day, the calf’s mother, Buffalo Woman, was also found dead. [refer to Part 3]
According to Texas Monthly Magazine, “The Greenville community was supportive of Arby. In fact, the only complaints came from his inner circle, and in particular Old Crow, who frequently objected to the way Arby did things. Old Crow didn’t like Arby’s idea of allowing vendors at the naming ceremony. He also objected to Arby’s $5 parking fee. Charging for seeing a sacred animal was like charging people to go to church, he said. But Arby insisted that with all these people coming he needed the money to pay for expenses and upkeep of the ranch. Yolonda Blue Horse agreed with Old Crow; the whole event felt to her like a circus, not a sacred moment.”
Initially, Hunt county sheriff, Randy Meeks, had come in to investigate. By May, officers from the Hunt County Homeland Security office as well as a Texas Ranger, Laura Simmons, were involved. Convinced that the calf and his mother had been murdered, Arby started a reward fund in which donors pledged over $45,000 dollars.
Sheriff Meeks, his investigator Roger Seals, and Texas Ranger Laura Simmons were very concerned that something so sacred and important to Native Americans could happen in their county. They saw it as more than criminal mischief on “just a buffalo”. “But,” [quoting again from Texas Monthly] “they also had nagging doubts about the stories told by the Little Soldiers. Pat said the calf had been found Sunday, Arby said Monday. Pat said the calf’s hooves had been taken, but all four were found in the grave. Arby said it had been skinned, but when he dug up the dusty carcass, it seemed to have patches of hair and skin on it. Debra Diaz, a veterinarian who was brought onto the scene, couldn’t determine a cause of death. But she did say, according to Seals, “that there was a lot of skin left and that if someone tried to skin the calf they did a poor job of it.” Alesha Runnels, the Little Soldiers’ ranch hand, said she had found a lot of hair around the carcass. “If someone knew what he was doing,” said Meeks, “there would have been very little hair at the scene.” When Seals went to the ranch in late May, Runnels showed him where Lightning had been found. The grass was still matted in four areas. It looked to Seals as if the calf had gotten up and lain down over and over, maybe from being sick.
“Other things were also giving investigators pause, such as the condition of Buffalo Woman’s carcass, which, when they first visited, on May 3, was still lying on the ground. She seemed to have been dead for more than two days, and contrary to Arby’s assertions, there didn’t appear to be any wounds that would explain a punctured lung. What’s more, they interviewed the ranchers in Celeste who had sold Buffalo Woman to Arby in January 2011, back when her name was Alice. She was pregnant when Arby bought her, before she ever encountered Ben, Lightning’s supposed father. The heartbreaking saga of an entire buffalo family getting wiped out seemed to be a fiction. Things weren’t adding up. Seals and Simmons wanted to talk to Arby about it all, but he wouldn’t return their phone calls.”
In July, Arby and his elder Sam Lone Wolf held a press conference demanding law enforcement solve the case, “We are looking for justice,” Arby said. Lone Wolf was more insistent. “I am a warrior,” he said, adding that he and Arby had identified seven suspects. “If the killers want Indian justice,” he continued, “they will get it.”
[TM] “Simmons and Seals were intrigued; they asked Arby to come to the sheriff’s office and tell them who these suspects were. The meeting did not go well. When Simmons asked for the names of the seven, Arby, who was accompanied by his wife and Frank Owens, held up a picture of Lightning, cleared his throat, and said, “We’re looking at something innocent here, like an innocent dog that got burned.” Seals took notes while Simmons nodded. Finally, after talking for a few minutes, Arby gave them four names—Albert Old Crow; Old Crow’s wife, Kathy; Yolonda Blue Horse; and an ex-con friend of Old Crow’s. “
The investigation continued, but the deeper they probed, the more they found that did not add up. The investigators learned Elder Sam Lone Wolf’s birth name was Joseph Angel Molano and that his claims to be Native American were suspect and that he had a history of fraud. Arby’s claim to be the great, great, great, great grandson of Sitting Bull was also rejected. When the county complained of not receiving payment for services, an investigation of the reward fund found that it was the checking account of Pat Little Soldier and only around $300 remained in the account. The funds had been used to pay employees, buy supplies, and a couple of horses. Investigators learned the high school scholarship fund had gotten no money promised from the powwow.
The local veterinarian, Dean Hansen, told investigators that he “suspected the buffalo had died of black leg, a bacterial disease that inflames muscle tissue, producing bubbles of gas between the meat and the hide of an animal, basically suffocating it. Symptoms included lethargy and loss of appetite, and livestock are most susceptible at ages three to eighteen months. Rice told investigators that two more buffalo had died in late June, which aligned with Hansen’s theory. The buffalo, it seemed, were dying from disease—a disease for which they had not been vaccinated.”
In September, Sheriff Meeks announced the investigation was closed. “In the press conference, he stated that The cause of death could not be determined, but he thought it was a bacterial disease like black leg.”
[TM] “The sheriff sounds genuinely upset with the result. “I’ve known Arby five years and always thought he was a straight-up guy. I was close to him, visited his home. This hurts me that it turned out this way.” Piecing everything together, he thinks Arby basically panicked. “I think the calf died, it was twelve days before the powwow, he said, ‘What am I gonna do?’ His cash cow was dead. He had to come up with something or lose the money from the powwow.””
Next week, a Texas gas station owner tries to promote his business with a White Buffalo.