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Red Cloud Indian School, SDPB partner to celebrate cultural ties to buffalo
Screening of Ken Burns’ 'The American Buffalo,' preview of 'Tatanka: A Way of Life' planned at Sept. 30 event
The buffalo is an integral part of the history and culture of tribes in South Dakota and across America.
South Dakota Public Broadcasting has partnered with the Red Cloud Indian School to produce an event planned for Sept. 30, 2023, that will feature two films about the buffalo and its impact on Native Americans and how tribes in South Dakota are working to rebuild the culture of “Thatanka Oyate” — a Lakota phrase that means Buffalo Nation.
The event will include a screening of acclaimed documentarian Ken Burns’ latest film called “The American Buffalo.” It will also feature a short preview of Tatanka: A Way of Life, SDPB’s newest series and companion to Burns’ documentary.
“Tatanka: A Way of Life, is a story of how tribes from across South Dakota are managing and growing their buffalo herds and strengthening the cultural and spiritual connection with the people and passing on these customs and traditions to the next generations,” producer Richard Two Bulls said. “It is truly a celebration of life and culture.”
Doors open for the celebration at noon. Everyone is welcome to attend and bring children to enjoy balloon animals, a bouncy house and face painting. At 1 p.m., the celebration begins with an opening prayer and an address before the screening of the two films.
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The story of the tribes here in South Dakota will be shared alongside the buffalo as it becomes reintegrated into their culture.
The Red Cloud Indian High School has been harvesting and processing buffalo to teach their students, the next generation, the traditions and culture regarding that way of life. Students of all ages participate in processing the buffalo.
Traditionally, the men of the tribe did the actual hunting, and the women of the tribe from all ages processed the buffalo for food, tools, shelter, and clothing.
Children were raised as a collective and taught these values, mainly at the hands of the grandmas and elders. What this school is doing is not only reintroducing these customs and way of life, but they are allowing the next generation to learn the way their ancestors existed and provide a potential opportunity to maintain food sovereignty and sustainability, to capture and teach their future generations the way of their people and the way the buffalo was respected and used.
“We are excited to partner with SDPB and Tanka Fund to highlight what the buffalo means to us Lakota and to highlight the work happening in South Dakota tribal communities around food sovereignty,” said Jennifer Irving, Vice President of Communications at Maȟpíya Lúta.
“We really want folks to see this event as an opportunity to learn more about our culture and to have some fun,” she said. “These screenings really served as a springboard for us to launch a broader community event and bring folks together.”
The first screenings of both films will be followed by a panel discussing food sovereignty and the importance of Native led buffalo herds.
Nick Hernandez, CEO of Makoce Agriculture, will facilitate the panel consisting of panelists Trudy Ecoffey, Executive Director of Tanka Fund; Ed Iron Cloud, buffalo ranch operations manager at Knife Chief Buffalo Nation Society; Bamm Brewer, buffalo rancher at Brewer Buffalo Adventures; and Virgil Two Eagle, buffalo producer at Black Feather Buffalo Ranch.
In addition to the screenings of the two new films, there will art booths, dancer-singer demonstrations, pony rides, traditional Lakota storytelling about the buffalo, a presentation about the traditional uses of the buffalo, traditional Lakota hand games and a round dance.
The evening will end with a community meal that will feature buffalo as part of the meal.
The festival emcee will be Chris Eagle Hawk and the drum group Čaŋte T’iŋza Singers will also perform.
Traditional game demonstrations will be provided by Roger White Eyes, instructor at Maȟpíya Lúta and a Powwow Dance exhibition will be performed by the Our Lady of Lourdes Dance Club.