Festival Saturday, February 17, 2024

Time: 1:00 p.m. – 1:55 p.m.

225 W. President St, Savannah, GA 31401

Dayton Duncan


The American buffalo—our nation’s official mammal—is an improbable, shaggy beast that has found itself at the center of many of our most mythic and sometimes heartbreaking tales. The largest land animals in the Western Hemisphere, they are survivors of a mass extinction that erased ancient species that were even larger. For nearly 10,000 years, they evolved alongside Native people who weaved them into every aspect of daily life; relied on them for food, clothing, and shelter; and revered them as equals.

Newcomers to the continent found the buffalo fascinating at first, but in time they came to consider them a hindrance to a young nation’s expansion. And in the space of only a decade, they were slaughtered by the millions for their hides, with their carcasses left to rot on the prairies. Then, teetering on the brink of disappearing from the face of the earth, they would be rescued by a motley collection of Americans, each of them driven by different—and sometimes competing—impulses. This is the rich and complicated story of a young republic’s heedless rush to conquer a continent, but also of the dawn of the conservation era—a story of America at its very best and worst.

Dayton Duncan is an award-winning writer and filmmaker. He is the author of fourteen books and for more than thirty years has collaborated with Ken Burns as a writer and producer of historical documentaries, including The West, Lewis & Clark: The Journey of the Corps of Discovery, The Dust Bowl, Country Music, and The National Parks: America’s Best Idea (for which he won two Emmy awards).
His most recent collaboration with Burns is a four-hour documentary, The American Buffalo, broadcast by PBS in October 2023. His book, Blood Memory: The Tragic Decline and Improbable Resurrection of the American Buffalo, was published by Knopf at the same time.
Duncan has also been involved in many conservation organizations. President Bill Clinton appointed him chair of the American Heritage Rivers Advisory Committee and Secretary of Interior Bruce Babbitt appointed him to the board of the National Park Foundation. In the spring of 2009, the director of the National Park Service named Duncan as an Honorary Park Ranger, an honor bestowed on fewer than 50 people. He has served on the boards of the Student Conservation Association and the National Conservation Lands Foundation, and as a member of the advisory committee for the 2016 centennial of the National Park Service. He and his wife Dianne split their time between homes in Rindge, New Hampshire, and Savannah.

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