MILWAUKEE (AP) -- A farm in Wisconsin is quickly becoming hallowed ground for American Indians with the birth of its third white buffalo, an animal considered sacred by many tribes for its potential to bring good fortune and peace.
''We took one look at it and I can't repeat what I thought but I thought, 'Here we go again,''' said owner Dave Heider.
Thousands of people stopped by Heider's Janesville farm after the birth of the first white buffalo, a female named Miracle who died in 2004 at the age of 10. The second was born in 1996 but died after three days.
Heider said he discovered the third white buffalo, a newborn male, after a storm in late August.
Over the weekend, about 50 American Indians held a drum ceremony to honor the calf, which has yet to be named, he said.
Floyd ''Looks for Buffalo'' Hand, a medicine man in the Oglala Sioux Tribe in Pine Ridge, S.D., said it was fate that the white buffaloes chose one farm, which will likely become a focal point for visitors, who make offerings such as tobacco and dream catchers in the hopes of earning good fortune and peace.
''That's destiny,'' he said. ''The message was only choose one person.''
The white buffalo is particularly sacred to the Cheyenne, Sioux and other nomadic tribes of the Northern Plains that once relied on the buffalo for subsistence.
According to a version of the legend, a white buffalo, disguised as a woman wearing white hides, appeared to two men. One treated her with respect, and the other didn't. She turned the disrespectful man into a pile of bones, and gave the respectful one a pipe and taught his people rituals and music. She transformed into a female white buffalo calf and promised to return again.
That this latest birth is a male doesn't make it any less significant in American Indian prophecies, which say that such an animal will reunite all the races of man and restore balance to the world, Hand said. He said the buffalo's coat will change from white to black, red and yellow, the colors of the various races of man, before turning brown again.
The birth of a white male buffalo means men need to take responsibility for their families and the future of the tribe, Hand said.
The odds of a white buffalo are at least 1 in a million, said Jim Matheson, assistant director of the National Bison Association. Buffalo in general have been rare for years, thought their numbers are increasing, with some 250,000 now in the U.S., he said.
Many people, like Heider, choose to raise the animals for their meat, which is considered a healthier, low-fat alternative to beef.
Gary Adamson, 65, of Elkhorn, who is of Choctaw and Cherokee heritage, said tribal elders will help interpret the animal's significance.
''There are still things that need to be done, and Miracle's task wasn't quite done yet, and we feel there's something there,'' he said.