American Bison, our national mammal, is back in focus as keystone species in a new documentary.

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The legendary national mammal, the American Buffalo is making a comeback both in our ecosystem and on our home screens.

Meet My Neighbor Productions, Inc. a 501(c)3 nonprofit film producer released their pilot trailer for NATIVE The Prodigies of an Icon at the National Bison Association Winter Conference in Denver last month.

NATIVE | The Prodigies of an Icon will be a feature documentary film project about North America’s most iconic mammal, the American Bison (aka Buffalo) and man’s evolving interaction with it. The film features ranchers and Native Americans across the United States and Native American Territories. The documentary recounts the history of Bison and tis relationship with mankind, the regenerative significance Bison has to our ecology, and the industry that has made the Bison’s comeback both possible and sustainable in a modern world.

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American bison screen shot from NATIVE The Prodigies of an IconMeet My Neighbor Productions, Inc.

In short, the overall goal is to increase the public’s understanding of the vital role ruminants (grazing animals that chew their cud) play in our ecosystem, and to educate consumers in the value of supporting the sustainable Bison Industry through commerce.

The film will be completely narrated by an impressive cast which currently includes Wizipan "Little Elk" Garriott who was previously the CEO of the Rosebud Economic Development Corporation and is now the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs at the U.S. Department of the Interior. Dave Carter who has served as the Executive Director of the National Bison Association for approximately 20 years. Jason Baldes the secretary for the Inner Tribal Buffalo Counselor and Tribal Buffalo Coordinator for the National Wildlife Federation. John Flocchini of the Sierra Meat Company and Durham Ranch Brand. Byron Shelton who is the project manager of the West Bijou Ranch for the Savory Institute. Dan Nosal a rangeland management specialist for the USDA. Ace Ward of Great Range Premium Bison. Greg and Tammy Knott of Memphis Bison Ranch and the American Authentic Bison Brand. As well as Scott Assman of Dakota Pure Bison.

"Buffalo are essential to who we are and to our identity" says Wizipan Garriott in the films pilot "we have now recognized the bison as our national mammal, it's not only a Native American story, it's an American story that people need to understand" continues Jason Baldes in the film.

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Screen shot of Jason Baldes Inner Tribal Buffalo CounselMeet My Neighbor Productions, Inc.

In order to capture and illustrate the Bison’s role in our ecosystem, the directors plan to film Bison on ranches, Native American reservations, and conservation parks throughout the United States, illustrating the diverse range this mammal once inhabited, tis benefits in each ecosystem, and tis local availability nationwide.

Current filming locations include; Durham Ranch in Wright Wyoming, the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming, Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota, Memphis Ranch in Carr Wyoming, the Savory Institute & West Bijou Ranch in Strasburg Colorado, scenes from Trinity Bison Ranch in Clyde North Carolina, Dakota Pure Bison Ranch in Mission South Dakota, and Yellowstone National Park. The production team is currently raising funds to travel to ranches and reservations across the southwest and up through the north eastern United States in 2022.

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American Buffalo on the Wind River Indian ReservationMeet My Neighbor Productions, Inc.

Bison ranchers, indigenous peoples, and conservationists are running one of the largest conservation programs in the world. They have reestablished a species from the brink of extinction while restoring, managing, and protecting grasslands that are essential to our ecosystem and developing an industry that is contributing to everything from food security to clothing.

"When I came on board about 20 years ago, it seemed like the private ranchers and the conservationists, and the tribal bison producers were really isolated. We were kind of in our own silos. Not only with each of us doing our own thing but a lot of times throwing stones at the others. You know 'we're doing it right you guys are doing it wrong' type of thing. In beginning in about 2004 we began to really really understand that we may have a little bit different perspective on how we approach this animal, but at the heart of it is our love of the animal and the stewardship and the responsibility we have to it. And so we started working together" said Dave Carter, Executive Director of the National Bison Association at their winter conference in Denver.

Even though the Bison is the national mammal of the United States, many citizens are completely unaware of it’s incredible impact on our environment, it’s nutritional benefits, and the important role they play in bison conservation by supporting the industry in addition to conservation groups.

"(Bison) are really one of the most traditional regenerative animals that graced this planet. And because of their endurance and all your (speaking to ranchers, conservationists, and Native Americans) efforts, this animal has been able to comeback and thrive, and we want to tell that story" explained Shauna Rankin one of the films producers as she introduced the pilot.

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Shauna Rankin on location filming West Bijou RanchMeet My Neighbor Productions, Inc.

In recent years consumers have been becoming more aware of how their eating habits are impacting animal welfare and the environment. Taking advantage of this, patented food companies have run adverse social impact campaigns promoting cultured foods as the ideal solution to these concerns. These campaigns are negatively impacting the industry through policies, directives, and consumer choices.

While the film is currently designed as a single 90 to 120 minute feature. The film producers believe the story is rich enough, with sufficient content that if funding were available to support further ability to capture it the feature may expand into a larger, 2 or 3 part, documentary.

NATIVE | The Prodigies of an Icon is more than just another documentary. It is a film production complimented with a social impact campaign designed to gather the interest of a wide variety of viewers.

Throughout filming, Meet My Neighbor Productions publishes photos, vlog style videos, 30-45 minute farm/ranch documentaries, and updates to it’s social media network of over 100K subscribers.

"As a nonprofit everything we do is accompanied with a social media impact campaign" explained Charlie Rankin one of the films producers to conference attendees, "and so each of these farms and ranches, Native American reservations, will have a chance to tell more of their story in those shorter documentaries."

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Charlie Rankin on location filming the Rosebud Indian ReservationMeet My Neighbor Productions, Inc.

The documentary aims to help viewers understand the relationship and husbandry between humans and bison over thousands of years. From food security to spiritual connection, mankind and bison have developed alongside each other in a mutually beneficial relationship.

"Meet My Neighbor Productions is a community movement. Our goal is to entice interaction, conversation, and action. We do this through the use of social media and impact story telling" Said Charlie Rankin.

NATIVE | The Prodigies of an Icon will be created in a broadcast media form suitable for public television. Currently the production team is weighing the best routes for distribution either through a public television licensing platform or direct relationships with media outlets. The film is expected to be complete by the end of 2023.

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Bison on the Savory Institute's West Bijou RanchMeet My Neighbor Productions, Inc.

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