The American Buffalo

The dramatic story of America’s national mammal, which sustained the lives of Native people for untold generations, being driven to the brink of extinction, before an unlikely collection of people rescues it from disappearing forever. Ken Burns recounts the tragic collision of two opposing views of the natural world—and the unforgettable characters who pointed the nation in a different direction.


18m 36s

Homecoming follows Jason Baldes, an Eastern Shoshone and a member of the InterTribal Buffalo Council, as he leads historic transfers of bison to Indigenous communities which will maintain their herds to supply a healthy food source and cultural touchstone for their tribal citizens. The film explores what living among the bison once again means for Native people—today and for future generations.


  • Into the Storm: asset-mezzanine-16x9

    Into the Storm

    S1 E2 - 1h 59m

    By the late 1880s, the buffalo that once numbered in the tens of millions is teetering on the brink of extinction. But a diverse and unlikely collection of Americans start a movement that rescues the national mammal from disappearing forever. In English audio with captions, Spanish audio with captions, and Descriptive Audio.

  • Blood Memory: asset-mezzanine-16x9

    Blood Memory

    S1 E1 - 1h 56m

    For untold generations, America’s national mammal sustained the lives of Native people, whose cultures were intertwined with the animal. Newcomers to the continent bring a different view of the natural world, and the buffalo are driven to the brink of extinction. In English audio with captions, Spanish audio with captions, and Descriptive Audio.

Extras + Features

  • George Bird Grinnell and Early Conservation Efforts: asset-mezzanine-16x9

    George Bird Grinnell and Early Conservation Efforts

    S1 E2 - 6m 25s

    George Bird Grinnell was a student of Lucy Audubon, the widow of the famous ornithologist and painter. She taught him how to observe and appreciate the natural world. More importantly, Lucy taught him to think about future generations and how they might live one day. Grinnell put Lucy’s lessons to work, fighting against the destruction of birds and other wildlife, including the buffalo.

  • Buffalo Bill and His Wild West Show: asset-mezzanine-16x9

    Buffalo Bill and His Wild West Show

    S1 E2 - 5m 23s

    By 1889, Buffalo Bill Cody was the most famous American in the world. “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West” show promised “a year’s visit West in three hours,” complete with a stampede of buffalo – and the urban crowds couldn’t get enough of it. The show played an instrumental role in building a following in the country to save the buffalo from extinction.

  • The Buffalo Nickel and Bison Facts Today: asset-mezzanine-16x9

    The Buffalo Nickel and Bison Facts Today

    S1 E2 - 9m 15s

    The 1913 Buffalo Nickel raises important questions about the romanticization of the American West. Bison were brought back from the brink of extinction. Today conservation work continues in concert with the people whose lives have been intertwined with the buffalo for over 10,000 years. At least 80 tribes in 20 states control their own herds on nearly a million acres of tribal land.

  • Sitting Bull and the Wounded Knee Massacre: asset-mezzanine-16x9

    Sitting Bull and the Wounded Knee Massacre

    S1 E2 - 6m 21s

    U.S. concern over a new Ghost Dance ceremony prompted the arrest of the Lakota Chief Sitting Bull. Dozens ended up dead, including Sitting Bull. Several hundred Lakotas headed toward the Black Hills to end things peaceably with the U.S. Army. En route, they camped at a creek called Wounded Knee. The next morning, more than 250 Lakotas – mostly women and children – were killed by U.S. soldiers.

  • Surprising Facts About the Buffalo: asset-mezzanine-16x9

    Surprising Facts About the Buffalo

    S1 E1 - 9m 40s

    Did you know a buffalo can clear a six-foot fence? Or hit running speeds of 35 miles per hour? These animals may look strange and slow, but they’re "a souped-up hotrod of an animal hiding in a minivan shell." They were also driven nearly to extinction – but that’s only the beginning.

  • Why Is Destruction Part of Our Story?: asset-mezzanine-16x9

    Why Is Destruction Part of Our Story?

    S1 E1 - 9m 59s

    The scale of destruction of wild animals in the American West during the 19th century is the largest in known human history. When hide hunters ran out of buffalo, they turned to other animals to feed the market economy, from antelopes and elk to wolves and grizzly bears. Even scavenging animals could not escape the destruction.

  • Industrial Expansion West and Its Impact: asset-mezzanine-16x9

    Industrial Expansion West and Its Impact

    S1 E1 - 8m 52s

    After the Civil War, Americans set out with renewed energy to unite the East and West. They built railroads to span the continent, opening up vast areas for homesteaders and connecting distant metropolitan markets to domestic crops and cattle. The effect on the environment, the bison, and the Plains Indians was catastrophic.

  • A Legacy of Broken Promises: asset-mezzanine-16x9

    A Legacy of Broken Promises

    S1 E1 - 10m 24s

    The U.S. government made treaties with Indigenous people when it was convenient, and broke these treaties when it was inconvenient. This recurring pattern made it increasingly difficult for Native people to live – and survive – as they once had.

  • Behind the Scenes | Making The American Buffalo: asset-mezzanine-16x9

    Behind the Scenes | Making The American Buffalo

    S1 - 6m 31s

    Ken Burns, Julie Dunfey and Dayton Duncan give us a behind-the-scenes look at the production of The American Buffalo. The film is biography of an animal, but also a window into a broader American history.

  • Official Trailer: asset-mezzanine-16x9

    Official Trailer

    S1 - 30s

    The American Buffalo, a new two-part, four-hour series, takes 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 animal’s evolution, significance to the Great Plains, near demise, and relationship to the Indigenous People of North America.


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