Story of the Bison: Kevin Costner and Tatanka

HOLLYWOOD, Calif.

When Kevin Costner starred in and directed the 1990 film “Dances with Wolves,” he revived the western genre through the American Indian. His love of the buffalo from the Midwest plains was interwoven throughout the film and has become a symbol of the old west for Costner. Last June, an education center commissioned by Costner in Deadwood, S.D., opened its doors to the public. “Tatanka: The story of the Bison,” is located at the Dunbar resort, named after John Dunbar from “Dances with Wolves.”

Costner had always wanted to do something for the bison since reading “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.” He believes that the bison will always be an important part of the American West and through “Tatanka” everyone can be educated about their historical significance.

Over the last decade, Costner has been trying to build a $5,000,000 85-acre resort as a tribute to the bison and the Lakota people based on four essential themes: 1) origin of the bison, 2) highest population of bison in the 19th century, 3) the extinction and 4) the rescue of the bison in the 20th century.

Costner was bombarded with opposition from the Lakota people over the building of a resort/casino he originally planned for $200,000,000. The financing was not met and Costner let go of the planning until the right time.

A sculpture featuring Lakota warriors chasing the buffalo that had been donated years ago to Costner has now become an important part of the center. The Dunbar resort was built around the sculpture. After the center closes in October, the Black Hills State University will hold a two-week course on language retrieval. Plus, environmental classes will be part of the schedule since Costner partially built the center over an old city dump.

“Tatanka” employs several Lakota people who believe that Costner’s vision of educating the non-Indian about the history of the bison is pivotal. For more information about “Tatanka,” check out Costner’s Web site www.kevincostner.com and his link to the buffalo: www.thestoryofthebison.com.

Recently, Costner has been busy in Hollywood promoting his new western “Open Range” and its premiere. He directed and stars alongside Robert Duvall and Annette Bening. During the same week as the Aug.15 premiere, Costner received his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

The Wild West has become a love for Costner through motion pictures. It started with “Silverado” (1995) that made him a star and he has revisited the western genre several times with Wyatt Earp” (1994), “The Postman” (1997) and his recent critically-acclaimed hit “Open Range” (2003).

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