Buffalo Is the New Buffalo
Powerful stories of "Metis futurism" that envision a world without violence, capitalism, or colonization.
"Education is the new buffalo" is a metaphor widely used among Indigenous peoples in Canada to signify the importance of education to their survival and ability to support themselves, as once Plains nations supported themselves as buffalo peoples. The assumption is that many of the pre-Contact ways of living are forever gone, so adaptation is necessary. But Chelsea Vowel asks, "Instead of accepting that the buffalo, and our ancestral ways, will never come back, what if we simply ensure that they do?"
Inspired by classic and contemporary speculative fiction, Buffalo Is the New Buffalo explores science fiction tropes through a Metis lens: a Two-Spirit rougarou (shapeshifter) in the nineteenth century tries to solve a murder in her community and joins the nehiyaw-pwat (Iron Confederacy) in order to successfully stop Canadian colonial expansion into the West. A Metis man is gored by a radioactive bison, gaining super strength, but losing the ability to be remembered by anyone not related to him by blood. Nanites babble to babies in Cree, virtual reality teaches transformation, foxes take human form and wreak havoc on hearts, buffalo roam free, and beings grapple with the thorny problem of healing from colonialism.
Indigenous futurisms seek to discover the impact of colonization, remove its psychological baggage, and recover ancestral traditions. These eight short stories of "Metis futurism" explore Indigenous existence and resistance through the specific lens of being Metis. Expansive and eye-opening, Buffalo Is the New Buffalo rewrites our shared history in provocative and exciting ways.
- Short-listed, Indigenous Voices Award 2023
Buffalo is the New Buffalo is a deeply important collection of stories that masterfully weaves our history, our language, and our kinship systems with present-day realties while challenging colonial assertions. The work erases the imposition of gender binaries and re-establishes matriarchy in the past as if it was never removed, as if the buffalo were not wiped out. It empoweringly erases the erasure of our people and reminds us we can create a new future. Meticoulously researched, the stories present an alternate reality for Metis people while maintaining and strengthening what we would consider to be the important parts of ourselves, such as our Metis nehiyawak beliefs and knowledge of the world and our place in it. It's a deeply felt work of love for our people and for the babies to come, one that helped me to see things in a new light and shifted my thinking, as only a great work of art can do. -Christi Belcourt (manitow-sakahikan apihtawikosisan / Lac Ste. Anne Metis), visual artist
Meticulously researched and thoughtfully created, these stories inform as well as entertain, engage as well as challenge. Rich in place, culture, history, and language, Vowel has offered a series of mamahtawacimowina, miraculous stories, that will undoubtedly endure as we head into the future, just like the powerful characters that live within these pages. -David A. Robertson (Norway House Cree Nation), author of When We Were Alone and On the Trapline
A gut renovation of the science-fiction genre that liberates dystopian and post-apocalyptic ideas from tired tropes to explore radical possibilities for Indigenous resilience. -Quill and Quire (STARRED REVIEW)
Vowel's book melds the past with the future, the known with the unknown. Vowel wants to preserve ancestral ways, protecting them and ensuring their survival for future generations. She extends the future of Metis people, considering what it might be like while taking readers on fantastical journeys. -Edmonton Journal
Indigenous visionaries imagining Indigenous futures: this deeply held and age-old principle is powerfully realized in this extraordinary new collection that speaks to our time, as well as others. In Buffalo Is the New Buffalo, Chelsea Vowel takes land, kinship, and community seriously - not simply as metaphors or motifs, but as profound and motivating values for imagining restorative Metis futures beyond the limitations of the settler colonial imaginary. These remarkable stories of constellated Metis kinship across space and time are haunting, hilarious, harrowing, and healing in equal measure; the characters are alive, complicated, and compelling, and Vowel's work insists on the vibrant now, then, and tomorrow of Indigenous possibility. The stories will linger with you long after you finish the book, in all the very best ways. I can't recommend this book highly enough. -Daniel Heath Justice (Cherokee Nation), author of Why Indigenous Literatures Matter
These eight Metis Futurism short stories defy genre by blending the past, present, and future to create liberating possibilities for Metis and Indigenous futures where Indigenous peoples are very much present. -Buzzfeed News
Doing speculative and science fiction through a Metis framework, Chelsea Vowel challenges, entertains and becomes the voice of Indigenous futurism. -Ms. Magazine
By focusing not only on imagined futures and pasts, but on the here and now as well - the act and process of writing - Vowel explores the possibilities of Metis and Indigenous futurism, and the ways in which speculative fiction can shape how we live in the world today. -Book Riot