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Companion film to Ken Burns bison documentary highlights herds on Tribal lands

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News brief: 

A new short film on PBS is a follow-up to the recent Ken Burns documentary, “The American Buffalo.” “Homecoming” focuses on bison restoration in Indigenous communities.

The film profiles Jason Baldes, a member of the Eastern Shoshone Tribe in Wyoming, as he leads bison transfers to tribal herds across the country. Baldes is a member of the InterTribal Buffalo Council – a collection of dozens of tribes in 20 states that manages more than 20,000 bison. The council hopes to provide healthy food sources for tribes, as well as cultural and historical connections to a species that was critical for generations of Native Americans.

"For many tribes, including my own, our entire lives were centered on this animal,” said Julianna Brannum, the film’s director and a citizen of the Comanche Nation. “It had disappeared from our culture for a time, but with the hard work of folks like Jason Baldes and the InterTribal Buffalo Council, we are seeing a powerful rematriation – a return to our traditional lifeways that help to ground us and refocus our attention to the natural world.”

In “Homecoming,” Baldes said he hopes to see the animals return to a wild and free state where they aren’t held back by fences and don’t need supplemental feeding.

Ken Burns is the executive producer of the film. His longer documentary, “The American Buffalo,” follows the near extinction of bison from North America.

“Homecoming” is now out on PBS.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, KUNC in Colorado and KANW in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Will Walkey is currently a reporter for Wyoming Public Radio. Through 2023, Will was WPR's regional reporter with the Mountain West News Bureau. He first arrived in Wyoming in 2020, where he covered Teton County for KHOL 89.1 FM in Jackson. His work has aired on NPR and numerous member stations throughout the Rockies, and his story on elk feedgrounds in Western Wyoming won a regional Murrow award in 2021.