ITVS Presents The Buffalo War

August 15, 2001

Contact: Cara White (843/881-1480;

(San Francisco, CA)-ITVS presents Matthew Testa’s THE BUFFALO WAR a

provocative chronicle of the clash between Native Americans, ranchers, government officials and environmental activists over the killing of America’s last wild buffalo herd. Winner of Best Environmental Documentary at the 44th San Francisco International Film Festival and the Jury Prize for Best Documentary at the Newport International Film Festival, THE BUFFALO WAR will air nationally on PBS stations on November 1, 2001 at 10:00PM (check local listings.)

Since 1985, more than 3,000 free-roaming bison have been killed when they migrated out of Yellowstone National Park in search of food. Responsible for the killing are Montana State livestock officials and other government agents who claim they are protecting local cattle herds from the spread of the disease brucellosis. But many believe the real issue is over control of public lands – and the classic, age-old American conflict between commerce and conservation.

THE BUFFALO WAR explores the controversy by joining a 500-mile spiritual march across Montana by Lakota Sioux Indians who object to the slaughter. Led by Lakota elder Rosalie Little Thunder, the marchers explain their culture’s deep-seated connection to bison as they cross the unforgiving Montana plains in winter. Encountering driving snow, long miles, rustic sleeping conditions and occasional racism, the walkers draw strength from hardship and learn the power of tradition and sacrifice. Contrasting the solemn pacifism of the Lakota Sioux are the brash civil disobedience techniques of the Buffalo Field Campaign, a band of daring environmental activists who use video cameras and elaborate road blockades to try and save migrating bison from being captured and killed by government officials. Though strident, the activists have been effective in drawing national attention to the battle over bison. THE BUFFALO WAR also gives a voice to the concerns of rancher Keith Munns and his family. Caught in the crossfire of the bison dispute, the Munns family must find a way to coexist with the buffalo as well as with a changing West characterized by rampant development and higher taxes; like the bison, many long-time ranchers are finding it harder and harder to live in the place settled by generations of their predecessors.

In contrast to the often angry voices of the myriad factions involved in the dispute are the bison themselves-majestic, magnificent animals that are finding it harder and harder to find a place in the teeming new world of the American West.

About the Filmmakers

THE BUFFALO WAR is Producer/Director/Cinematographer Matthew Testa’s first feature documentary. He has worked on other documentary productions for New York Times Television, National Geographic, Showtime, The Discovery Channel and PBS and for numerous independent producers. In 1995 he co-produced and directed Bill Briggs: Teton Pioneer for ABC. Prior to working in film, Testa was a newspaper reporter and editor in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where he first became familiar with the buffalo story.

For further information

To find out the latest news on the bison, visit the Buffalo Field Campaign’s website at, the Greater Yellowstone Coalition’s website at, and the Intertribal Bison Cooperative at For Montana’s perspective, go to the > Department of Livestock’s homepage and check out the Recent Updates and Bison/Brucellosis categories. Additional information can be found at the site of the Greater Yellowstone Interagency Brucellosis Committee.

About ITVS

In 2001, the Independent Television Service (ITVS) celebrates a decade of television for a change. ITVS will mark its 10th anniversary this year with special screenings at film festivals and retrospectives at several major museums, including the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and The Museum of Modern Art in New York (for a complete list of anniversary events, please log on to Public television stations around the country, including WNET and KQED, will also be saluting ITVS with special anniversary programming. In addition, a record number of ITVS productions-six-will premiere this summer and fall on the PBS series “P.O.V.”, including the recent Sundance Film Festival award winner, SCOUT’S HONOR.

Since its inception in 1991, programs produced by ITVS have transformed, reinvented and revitalized the relationship between the public and public television. From ground-breaking series like THE FARMER’S WIFE and AN AMERICAN LOVE STORY to specials including Emmy Award winners SING FASTER: THE STAGEHANDS’ RING CYCLE; SCHOOL PRAYER: A COMMUNITY AT WAR; GIRLS LIKE US and NOBODY’S BUSINESS, and the Peabody Award-winning TRAVIS, A HEALTHY BABY GIRL, COMING OUT UNDER FIRE and THE GATE OF HEAVENLY PEACE, ITVS productions have dared to bring TV audiences face-to-face with the lives and concerns of their fellow Americans. In the process, ITVS has changed minds, opened hearts, inspired dialogue and brought viewers out of the box and into their communities and communities they might never have known about. For information, contact ITVS at 51 Federal St., First Floor, San Francisco, CA 94107; e-mail: or visit the ITVS website