GREAT FALLS — Historian Dayton Duncan has teamed up again with renowned filmmaker Ken Burns for a four-hour two-part documentary called “The American Buffalo.”
The film tells the story of how the U.S. National Mammal (officially known as bison) came back from the brink of extinction, and its deep connection to Indigenous communities and the land.
For the film, 18 extended on-camera interviews were conducted, including several Montanans. The result was more than 30 hours of material, not all of which could be included.
But it did make up a sizeable portion of the companion book by Duncan and Burns, “Blood Memory: The Tragic Decline and Impossible Resurrection of the American Buffalo.”
“It takes all the research and the story that’s wrapped into a four-hour documentary, but it includes a lot more information on a lot more of the things that the different people that we interview had to say,” said Duncan during an interview with MTN back in June. “And therefore, it tells an even fuller story.”
Duncan says the film project, and subsequently the book, has been in the planning stages dating back years to other collaborations the pair did together like Lewis and Clark and the National Parks.
In both the book and the film, one prominent historian notes the near decimation of bison in the late 1800’s represented the largest slaughter of wildlife in history.
And while bison numbers are not expected to reach into the multi-millions like they once did, reintroduction efforts can play a key role in reconnection with Native peoples.
“It is important to them for food security. It's important for them economically. But most importantly, it's a reconnection of something that is so deep in their blood memory and in their traditions and in their history that that it can do a lot of good,” said Duncan.
Blood Memory goes on sale October 10.
The American Buffalo airs on PBS October 16TH and 17th.