By Muriel Tissonnier
Pahponee’s heritage is Kickapoo and Potawatomi, while the tribe’s homeland are the woodland areas of lake Michigan, Pahponee spent most of her early childhood in the Midwest. The later part of childhood she spent in the Olympic Peninsula of Washington state. While studying liberal arts at Graceland University in southern Iowa, she met her husband, Greg, whose passion was ceramics.
Pahponee began to decorate his pots, carving them, allowing them to tell stories. It wasn’t until several years later, during a stop in Oklahoma after one of her husband’s art shows, that Pahponee had the opportunity to see a rare white buffalo mother and calf that she began her own career as a ceramicist.
The Plains tribes tell of the legend of the white buffalo woman. This beautiful, young woman came to them during a time of hunger and need. She brought the sacred pipe and taught them how to pray, to respect women and children, how to value the buffalo and how to live. As she left, she stopped and rolled over four times. The first time she turned into a black buffalo, the second into a brown one, the third into a red one and finally transforming into a white buffalo calf. As she left, she said that when the White Buffalo returned to the land, it would signal a time of peace and oneness of spirit.
The Four Cycles of the White Buffalo:
The sacred white buffalo would cycle through the four colors of the medicine wheel, red, yellow, black and white, which also represent the races of the world. The sacred White Buffalo would return in reverse order from the way she left earth as she came back into our spiritual realm.
Pahponee, familiar with the legend of the white buffalo was honored when she was invited to see a rare white buffalo mother and calf. Pahponee was taken by their beauty and dreamt of them all night after their encounter. The next morning when she returned to see them, they seemed to have been waiting for her. They stepped sideways and paraded in front of them. As the white buffalo mother stopped in front of her she said to Pahponee, in her mind, In a sacred manner I walk, Do like wise.
At home Pahponee began dreaming of a pure white pot with four white buffalo carved on it, to honor the White Buffalo. It took a year and a half until she finally, with the encouragement and technical advice of her husband, she created it. She continues to turn to the spirit of the White Buffalo for guidance, a presence she continues to feel in her life. Pahponee has come to believe that by creating and selling pots, they will bless the homes where they went. Today she works in both white and red clay, using both traditional and modern techniques.