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Sneak Peek: The American Buffalo: A Film by Ken Burns

WITF and Willow Valley Communities invite you to a preview screening and community conversation around the upcoming Ken Burns film, The American Buffalo.

October 5 • 5 ‐ 8pm
Willow Valley Communities Cultural Center
Lakes Campus Visitor’s Entrance

124 Willow Valley Lakes Drive, Willow Street, PA 17584

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Doors open at 5pm with light refreshments provided by Willow Valley Communities.

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At 6pm, the special advanced preview screening of the two-part, four-hour series begins. The film explores the mythic and heartbreaking tale of the American buffalo by following more than 10,000 years of North American history that traces the buffalo’s evolution, its sacred connection to the Indigenous people of the United States, and national efforts made to save the animal from extinction.

Then, at 7pm, join a community conversation about topics raised in the film with a panel of experts, moderated by The Spark’s Scott LaMar. Sign up for your free tickets now!

There is free parking at the Cultural Center of Willow Valley Communities. Enter Willow Valley Communities at the Lakes Campus Visitor’s Entrance and follow the Event signs to the Cultural Center.

About the Film

For thousands of years, buffalo evolved alongside Indigenous people who revered and relied on them for food and shelter.

Stories of Native people anchor the series, including those from the Kiowa, Comanche, and Cheyenne of the Southern Plains; the Lakota, Salish, Kootenai, Mandan-Hidatsa, and Blackfeet from the Northern Plains; and others.

Numbering an estimated 30 million in the early 1800s, buffalo population began declining for a variety of reasons – a buffalo robe trade, the westward settlement of an expanding United States, diseases introduced by domestic cattle, and drought.

The arrival of the railroads in the early 1870s hastened the decline. Thousands of hunters arrived in the Great Plains to fill a new demand buffalo hide, used to make the belts driving the industrial machines back east.

In just over a decade the bison population collapsed from 12-15 million to fewer than a thousand. By 1900, the American buffalo teetered on the brink of extinction.

The film’s second part follows the national efforts of a diverse and unlikely combination of characters – including Theodore Roosevelt, Texas Cattleman Charles Goodnight, and Latatí and Michel Pablo on the Flathead reservation in Montana – who set out to save the species from extinction.

The American Buffalo is filled with fascinating stories and unforgettable people, including Old Lady Horse, a Kiowa woman who describes her tribe’s spiritual and practical relationship with the bison, and Charles Jesse “Buffalo” Jones, a hunter who took part in the final slaughter of millions of buffalo, but then turned to rescuing motherless calves and starting a small herd that would provide seed stock for others.

Corporate funding for The American Buffalo was provided by Bank of America. Major funding was provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and by The Better Angels Society and its following members: Margaret A. Cargill Foundation fund at the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation; Diane and Hal Brierley; The Keith Campbell Foundation for the Environment; John and Catherine Debs; Kissick Family Foundation; Fred and Donna Seigel; Jacqueline Mars; John and Leslie McQuown; and Mr. and Mrs. Paul Tudor Jones. Funding was also provided by The Volgenau Foundation.

Watch the Premiere on WITF TV, the PBS app or the WITF app

The American Buffalo premieres on WITF TV over two nights – Monday, October 16 and Tuesday, October 17 – from 8pm until 10pm. You can stream the film for free, on-demand for a limited time using the PBS or WITF app following its television premiere.

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