‘The American Buffalo’ traces fall and rise of a ‘sacred relationship’

Documentary filmmaker Ken Burns examines the dark history and ongoing recovery of the buffalo in a new series for PBS

By: - October 17, 2023 5:29 am

A two-part documentary series, "The American Buffalo," by acclaimed filmmaker Ken Burns, will premiere on PBS on Oct. 16-17, 2023, along with a companion short film, "Homecoming," directed and produced by Comanche filmmaker Julianna Brannum. (Photo by Jared Ames, courtesy of PBS)

In a sweeping two-part, four-hour film, master documentary filmmaker Ken Burns tells the story of the near-extinction and Indigenous-fueled return of the American buffalo, an animal that transcends mere existence and rises to spiritual being for Native communities.

Premiering on PBS on Oct. 16-17, the series, “The American Buffalo,” takes viewers on a journey through more than 12,000 years of North American history and across the continent’s vast landscapes, tracing the mammal’s evolution, its significance to the Great Plains and its relationship to the Indigenous people of North America.

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Sandra Hale Schulman
Sandra Hale Schulman

Sandra Hale Schulman, of Cherokee Nation descent, has been writing about Native issues since 1994. The recipient of a Woody Guthrie Fellowship, she is an author of four books, has contributed to shows at the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian, The Grammy Museum, The Museum of Modern Art NYC, and has produced four films on Native musicians.