Ken Burns’ “The American Buffalo” Coming Soon
It’s big, it’s shaggy and it’s a part of this country’s history in some truly mythical and tragic ways.
Ken Burns is back with a brand new documentary about one of the most important animals to walk the lands of America: the buffalo. The American Buffalo, which has been in production for four years, will take viewers on a journey through more than 10,000 years of North American history and across some of the continent’s most iconic landscapes, tracing the mammal’s evolution, its significance to the Great Plains and, most importantly, its relationship to the Indigenous People of North America.
“It is a quintessentially American story,” Ken Burns said in a press release, “filled with unforgettable stories and people. But it is also a morality tale encompassing two historically significant lessons that resonate today: how humans can damage the natural world and also how we can work together to make choices to preserve the environment around us.”
For thousands of generations, buffalo have evolved alongside Indigenous people who relied on them for food and shelter and, in exchange for killing them, revered the animal. The stories of Native people anchor the series, including the Kiowa, Comanche and Cheyenne of the Southern Plains; the Pawnee of the Central Plains; the Salish, Kootenai, Lakota, Mandan-Hidatasa, Aaniiih, Crow, Northern Cheyenne and Blackfeet from the Northern Plains; and others.
The buffalo were brought back from the brink of extinction by a diverse and unlikely collection of Americans, such as Native American families on reservations in South Dakota and Montana, the legendary cattleman Charles Goodnight and his wife Molly in the Texas Panhandle, and Austin Corbin, the Long Island railroad magnate who owned an exotic game preserve in New Hampshire. Today, there are approximately 350,000 buffalo in the U.S., most of them descendants of 77 animals from five founding herds at the start of the 20th century, and their numbers are increasing.
The American Buffalo will air in two parts on Monday, October 16, and Tuesday, October 17, at 8pm with encores at 10pm on CET and ThinkTV16. You can also stream a conversation between Judy Woodruff, filmmaker Ken Burns, and three experts: Jason Baldes, Rosalyn LaPier and Dan Flores now at https://video.thinktv.org/video/american-buffalo-story-of-resilience-discussion/ or https://watch.cetconnect.org/video/american-buffalo-story-of-resilience-discussion/.