Circle Dance of the White Buffalo


Maureen Tolman Flannery


No eagles flew on the first new day of 1889.

Prairie grasses lay rutted in waste

behind wagons of land claimers.

Silver mining creeks reeked of dead trout.


Brown pine needles abandoned branches

where buffalo stampeded to rocky abyss.

Dark storms encircled the world

as a dishonored sun crouched behind the moon.


In the red butte lands beyond the mountains

Wakova, a Paiute shaman, knew how to

harden the sweat in his hand to ice,

loosen skies to drown a drought,


summon gale winds from distances.

Wakova watched for answers

in the messiah-realm of light.

The spirit dance came to him


in troubled trance as a primal buffalo

winter-white hide aglow like a sun,

amber hooves pummeling a black sky.

Dance in a circle, its message imprinted


on the mind of the medicine man.

All First Peoples were called to unite,

give up war and in-fighting

to pound the ground in dance


beneath the sky of five straight days.

Pale men, threatened, called it

Ghost Dance and would not abide

the Sioux who practiced, in honest faith,


the dance that would bind the people

to their ancestors, restore the grasses,

bring bison and wild game back

to the plains, return first verdancy.


It would be a scant two years until

they merged with earth at Wounded Knee.