Johnson County Community College
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The Buffalo King


The Buffalo King

Film, panel on buffalo preservationist Scotty Philip is Jan. 24 at JCCC

JCCC professor emeritus appears in documentary, shares family history 

The Buffalo KingOVERLAND PARK, Kan. – “The Buffalo King,” a documentary on an immigrant who worked diligently to save the bison from extinction, will be shown at noon and 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 24, at Johnson County Community College. 

Before the evening film, a reception will honor the filmmaker, Justin Koehler, and the film subject’s great-grandniece, Sheilah Philip, who was interviewed in the film. The reception is at 6:30 p.m. in the Regnier Center atrium; refreshments will be served, and the public is encouraged to attend. 

“The Buffalo King” screenings will be in Hudson Auditorium in the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art. Admission is free, and individuals interested in conservation, environmental science and/or history are invited to attend either showing. 

The film, winner of best documentary at the South Dakota Film Festival, tells the story of James “Scotty” Philip, who left his native Scotland in 1874 at age 16 to join his brother already established on the Great Plains of the United States. After a short stint as his brother’s farmhand, he left to find his own way, Philip said. 

“After he married, he started his own ranch in south-central South Dakota,” Philip said. “One smart thing he did was petition the U.S. government for a post office, and in a corner of his ranch, the post office was formed. From there, that led to a small town that’s still there today – Philip, South Dakota,” Philip said. 

Philip, professor emeritus of theatre at JCCC, said her great-granduncle was a conservationist. At a time when train passengers shot thousands of buffalo just for the sport of it, leaving their corpses to rot on the plain, Scotty Philip sensed the urgency of saving the animals quickly facing extinction. 

The film shares the story of Scotty Philip’s struggle to have the government set aside 3,500 acres as a buffalo pasture. The bison herd at Custer State Park (among other small herds in the Great Plains) are descended from the herd that Scotty Philip saved in the early part of the 20th century. 

After each screening, a panel of experts will discuss the documentary and the themes presented within it. Participants will include Koehler, Philip and the following:

 “The event really will be a cooperative, collaborative effort among many different departments on the JCCC campus,” Philip explained. “This film gives us a chance to talk about how one person can have an impact on the world. Ordinary people can make a difference based on what their values are.”                                 

Sponsors of “The Buffalo King” documentary and panel are:

  • JCCC Center for Sustainability
  • JCCC history department
  • JCCC science department
  • Center for American Indian Studies
  • Kansas Studies Institute