Books·Canadian

Buffalo Is the New Buffalo

Chelsea Vowel's novel tells stories of "Metis futurism" that envision a world without violence, capitalism, or colonization.

Chelsea Vowel

"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 19th 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. (From Arsenal Pulp Press)

Buffalo Is the New Buffalo is available in April 2022.

Chelsea Vowel is a Métis writer and educator whose work focuses on language, gender identity and cultural resurgence. Her other novels include Indigenous Writes: A Guide to First Nations, Métis & Inuit Issues in Canada, which addresses stereotypes and assumptions about Indigenous issues ands offer insight into the relationship between Indigenous peoples and Canada. She also contributed to graphic novel, This Placewhich was adapted into a 10-episode podcast for CBC Books.

Interviews with Chelsea Vowel

Chelsea Vowel talks to Shelagh Rogers about her new book, Buffalo is the new Buffalo.

Other books by Chelsea Vowel

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