Pendleton Woolen Mills is making new Navajo-style blankets using wool and blended hair shed by an unusual herd of white buffalo in central Oregon. Ranching experts say fewer than 50 white buffalo, or American bison, live in the United States.
On a sanctuary east of Bend, Ore., 11 of them roam acres of isolated juniper forest. It is one of the larger collections of white buffalo. White buffalo are produced when recessive genes trigger the unusual trait. They are not albino.
"The significance of the white buffalo has been recognized by all the tribes that are buffalo culture people," Jim Stone, a Yankton-Yanktonai Sioux, told The Oregonian paper. Stone is executive director of the Intertribal Buffalo Council in Rapid City, S.D., an organization created to restore buffalo to Indian nations.
The idea to have Pendleton weave the blankets using white buffalo shed hair came from Bend, Ore., businessman Paul Hait.
The Pendleton company hopes to make up to 200 of the blankets in the coming year, company spokesman Robert Christnacht said.
"It's a unique story, it's a feel-good story in some ways," he added.