The heated controversy over proposals to exterminate the herds in Wood Buffalo National Park is a reminder of the significance the buffalo has acquired, standing symbolically at the point of interaction between aboriginal and white cultures and the plains environment. In Buffalo, specialists in the natural and social sciences, the humanities and fine arts examine the involvement of the buffalo in plains ecology and culture from its prehistoric evolution and migration to its present and uncertain future.
The importance of the buffalo in plains Indian culture is explored in essays on the development of the Cultural World Heritage Site at Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump and in an historical study of the last decade before the extinction of the wild herds. Its imaginative appropriation by white culture is traced through a survey of verbal and pictorial images of the buffalo from the sixteenth century to the present, culminating in a display of full-colour prints of paintings by Clarence Tillenius, the dean of Canadian wildlife painters. Five essays are devoted to issues fueling the current controversy: the history of exploitation and restoration of the wood buffalo, the factor of wolf predation in the Peace-Athabasca Delta, the scientific case for extermination of diseased herds, the importance of aboriginal involvement in decisions affecting the buffalo, and the findings of medical science regarding the danger of bovine tuberculosis and brucellosis to human beings. Finally, getting right down to earth, the volume concludes with a report on rigorous research into the thermal properties of buffalo chips as fuel.
Buffalo is the first in a new multi-disciplinary series of books under the general editorship of John Foster and Dick Harrison. The Alberta Nature and Culture Series offers informed commentary on Alberta and its people, past and present, and on related national and international issues.
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