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The Great American Buffalo Episode 1 (BBC FOUR Tuesday 9 January 2024)

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The Great American Buffalo

In the first episode of “The Great American Buffalo,” filmmaker Ken Burns sheds light on the historical significance of the buffalo in America and recounts its near extinction. Once numbering in the tens of millions and sustaining the Native people of the Great Plains, the buffalo faced devastation in the late 1800s.

The documentary highlights the profound connection between buffalo and Indigenous communities, who relied on the animal for sustenance, clothing, and housing. As buffalo populations dwindled from thirty million to fewer than a thousand, Native Americans were left devastated. Burns delves into the heartbreak caused by European settlers and later Americans, motivated by cash bounties for buffalo hides.

The clash of ideologies between settlers and Indigenous people regarding humankind’s place in nature is also explored. Historian Dan Flores, cited by Burns, emphasises that the mass slaughter of North American wild animals during this time was unprecedented in human history.

Despite the heartbreaking decline, there is hope. Today, approximately 350,000 buffalo, descended from fewer than 100 animals, roam the United States. Burns highlights the efforts of Native Americans, the federal government, and various non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in establishing and improving buffalo habitat.

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With climate change and mass extinction posing significant challenges, Burns sees the buffalo as a lesson in conservation. The documentary aims to inform viewers about the buffalo’s historical and cultural importance while emphasising the urgent need to protect our natural environment.

Tune in to Episode 1 of “The Great American Buffalo” on BBC FOUR at 10:00 pm on January 9, 2024, to witness the amazing story of the buffalo’s near extinction and the ongoing efforts to ensure its survival.


Isabelle aka Izzy Jacobs is the UK previews specialist at memorabletv.com. Isabelle is particularly drawn to crime dramas, but she also has a not so secret love for all things reality TV. In addition to her work at memorabletv.com, Isabelle is also an avid traveler and a devoted foodie.

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