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The Buffalo War

The battle over the yearly slaughter of America's last wild bison outside Yellowstone National Park.

A printer-friendly version of this page 57 minutes
Directed by Matthew Testa
Produced by Buffalo Jump Pictures, Inc. in association with Sweetspot Pictures, Inc.
A presentation of the Independent Television Service (ITVS), with funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting

THE BUFFALO WAR is the moving story of the Native Americans, ranchers, government officials and environmental activists currently battling over the yearly slaughter of America's last wild bison. Yellowstone National Park bison that stray from the park in winter are routinely rounded up and sent to slaughter by agents of Montana's Department of Livestock, who fear the migrating animals will transmit the disease brucellosis to cattle, despite the federal Department of Agriculture's urging that this is unlikely.

This film explores the controversial killing by joining a 500-mile spiritual march across Montana by Lakota Sioux Indians who object to the slaughter. Led by Lakota elder Rosalie Little Thunder, the marchers express their cultural connection to bison and display the power of tradition and sacrifice.

Woven into the film is the civil disobedience and video activism of an environmental group trying to save the buffalo, as well as the concerns of a ranching family caught in the crossfire.

Grade Level: 7-12, College, Adult
US Release Date: 2001     Copyright Date: 2001
DVD ISBN: 1-59458-247-5     VHS ISBN: 1-56029-911-8

"A powerfully emotional but balanced film, revealing the deep spiritual kinship of Native Americans with the buffalo, yet enveloping the fears of the agricultural community in protecting their cattle from the threat of brucellosis. Well documented and written; masterfully filmed; objective in its motives; and educational as well as entertaining in presentation."
Patricia M. Fazio, Ph.D, web content developer, Buffalo Bill Historical Center

"A fascinating look at the untold story of the current decimation of the last wild herd of buffalo...skillfully interweaves the stories of radical environmentalists, protesting Native Americans, and a ranch family."
San Francisco Film Society

"A scathing exposé of the fiendish state-supported conspiracies to exterminate the last vestiges of a noble creature--and a people--who once dominated the western plains."
Timothy McGettigan, Professor of Sociology, University of Southern Colorado

"As iconic as the buffalo are, the story's real power lies in its even-handed assessment of the separate struggles of Native American and environmental activists to change policies long-supported by ranchers and Montana bureaucracies. It is a model approach to laying out conflicting voices with empathy and restraint."
The Independent

"Environmental studies, current events, social science, and journalism classes are just a few of the many groups that can utilize this video to spark classroom debates and additional research."
School Library Journal

"Powerful...accurate...every American should see it."
Jay F. Kirkpatrick, Ph.D., Director, The Science and Conservation Center, ZooMontana

"A thoughtful, hard-hitting program...that offers no easy answers, this is recommended, especially for public and academic libraries in the American northwest and central states."
Video Librarian

"Of several films on this subject, The Buffalo War is arguably the best to date. Extremely well photographed, it gives equal weight to all the concerned voices."
Les Benedict, Montana Magazine

"The film footage is painfully beautiful... Each person interviewed represents his or her ideology articulately and passionately. The expert editing of the film weaves each story line into another with ease, allowing for maximum digestion of factual information. Hard issues are dealt with fairly and with skilled film-making techniques.
I cannot wait to show this film to my college-level ESL students. Any high-school social studies, agriculture, sociology, environmental, or film classroom teacher could incorporate this film into their curriculum. There is material here that will generate countless lesson plans and heated discussions, as well as bring to light important present-day issues in American culture. I have not seen a more important, well-made documentary in a long time. School libraries and community branch libraries should carry [The Buffalo War]"

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The Buffalo War

"A fascinating look at the untold story of the current decimation of the last wild herd of buffalo." San Francisco Film Society

Links (PBS' web site for the film.)
Study guide

Awards and Festivals
Golden Gate Award, Best Environmental Program, San Francisco International Film Festival
Grand Prize, Great Plains Film Festival
CINE Golden Eagle
Best Environmental Program, Vermont International Film Festival
Special Jury Prize, Newport International Film Festival
Honorable Mention, Columbus International Film Festival
Best Environmental Film, Ashland Independent Film Festival
Merit Award, International Wildlife Film Festival, Missoula
Honorable Mention, Black Maria Film Festival
Runner Up, Best Documentary, Northampton Film Festival
Certificate of Merit, Chicago International Television Competition
Margaret Mead Film Festival
Taos Talking Picture Festival
Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival
Nashville Independent Film Festival
Vermont International Film Festival
Dallas Video Festival
Hazel Wolf Environmental Film Festival
Crested Butte Reel Fest
Cornell Environmental Film Festival
Maine International Film Festival
The Oakland International Film Festival
Ozark Foothills Film Festival
Wild and Scenic Environmental Film Festival
Big Sky Documentary Film Festival
Artivist Film Festival
Jackson Hole Film Festival
American Conservation Film Festival, Shepherdstown, WV
"Audience Choice" Global Green Indigenous Film Festival

American Studies
American West
Animal Rights
Indigenous Peoples
Native Americans
Public Lands
Western US

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