top of page



"Tanka" By Tiffany Boyd, 2002

I painted this in 2002 and entitled it "Tanka" and always related it to the buffalo. I felt the need to share this after many years of keeping it private as I learned on April 25th, 2024 a white buffalo calf was born in Texas. 

White Buffalo Calf Woman

 "White Buffalo Calf Woman (Ptesan-Wi) is a supernatural entity of the Sioux religion, who serves as an intermediary between Wakan Tanka (Great Mystery or Great Spirit) and the people. According to Sioux lore, she appeared to the people in the distant past to teach them how to reconnect and maintain a relationship with the Great Spirit.

Her name, Ptesan-Wi, means "White Buffalo Calf Woman." She is sometimes referenced as a Native North American goddess, sometimes as a spirit, sometimes as a 'spirit guide' and is also known as Pte-San Win-Yan, Sacred Woman, White Buffalo Woman, White She-Buffalo, and White Buffalo Maiden. As one of her symbols is the ceremonial pipe, she is sometimes referred to as the goddess of tobacco – though this association should be understood along the lines of how Native Americans have viewed and used tobacco, not how it is generally understood by non-natives in the modern era. She is also associated symbolically with the numbers 4 and 7 (4 being the number of days she spent among the Sioux, and 7 the number of sacred rites), and with the bison, eagle, hawk, buttercup, sage, and agate, and, further, she is seen as a divine force deterring and punishing rape while empowering women and encouraging devotion to the common good.



There are many variations on the story of Ptesan-Wi, but all seem to come from a single source, which tells of two Lakota Sioux hunters – one of noble spirit and the other selfish and lustful – who encounter a beautiful maiden in the wilderness. The lustful man tries to lay hands on her and is killed, while the noble man, who shows her proper respect, is sent by her to tell his people she is coming to visit them and how to prepare for her. The man does as he is told, and when she arrives, she instructs the people on the proper use of the chanunpa (ceremonial pipe), the lela wakan ("very sacred") bundle of tobacco, and the seven sacred rites they are to observe to honor and commune with Wakan Tanka. She then departs after telling the people that, as long as they observe the rituals she has taught, and maintain their relationship with the Great Spirit, they will endure and prosper.

The story of White Buffalo Calf Woman was, and is, central to Sioux religious belief and ritual, which, in accordance with one of the variations of her story, teaches she will return one day to restore balance and universal harmony. Drawing on her inspiration, the White Buffalo Calf Women's Society, founded in 1977 on the Rosebud Reservation of the Sioux Nation in South Dakota, is working daily to protect, educate, and empower people, especially women and children, through community outreach and programs. Other groups and activists continue to honor the Sacred Maiden in similar ways as they fight for justice and the preservation of the environment.


According to Sioux lore, White Buffalo Calf Woman appeared to the people at a time when they had forgotten how to pray and had lost touch with the Great Mystery, the Creator who had provided them with all good gifts. White Buffalo Woman came as an intermediary between Wakan Tanka and the people to remind them of who they were, of their relationship to the Creator, and to teach them how to maintain that relationship through the seven rites which would include the use of the ceremonial pipe. The pipe was to be smoked prior to and during the observance of the seven rites:

  • Keeping of the Soul (Keeping and Releasing of the Soul)

  • The Purification Rite

  • Crying for a Vision

  • The Sun Dance

  • The Making of Relatives

  • The Girl's Coming of Age

  • The Throwing of the Ball


Read the full story here:

bottom of page