Posted by: Sandy Steinman | July 28, 2021

Today is Buffalo Soldiers Day

from Yosemite National Park
Today is Buffalo Soldiers Day, a day where we remember and celebrate the six African-American army regiments that initially served on the Western frontier beginning in 1866. Buffalo Soldiers were among the first park rangers in the world, patrolling and serving parts of the American West.
Here in Yosemite, we have been asked over the years “so why honor the African American soldiers who served in Yosemite and Sequoia?”
Because these U.S. Cavalry and Infantry troops served as rangers before there were National Park Rangers. They built the first usable wagon road into Sequoia’s Giant Forest, and the first trail to the top of Mt. Whitney in 1903. They constructed the first National Park museum, a nature trail with plants identified in English and Latin, in Yosemite in 1904.

These warriors have earned the right to be celebrated for what they, and other troops, saved for the world. Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks.
They faced challenges in their work. Even though this day recognizes those “Negro” U.S. Army troops, we don’t necessarily remember that the Black men who served in Yosemite in 1899, 1903, and 1904 as some of the first park rangers in the world were mostly veterans of the Philippine Insurrection, and not the Indian Wars.
The majority of these men were in their 20’s when they arrived in the Sierra beginning in 1899, so most of them hadn’t even been born when the genocide of indigenous people began in the Sierra Nevada fifty year earlier with the California Gold Rush.
So why call them Buffalo Soldiers?
Because the U.S. Army regiments they belonged to were the 9th U.S. Cavalry, and the 24th U.S. Infantry, and those specific regiments were dispatched to the Western Frontier after the Civil War to subdue the indigenous people whose ancestral lands had been claimed by France, and then “purchased” by the United States of America in 1803, lands that had never been seen by any U.S. citizen prior to the arrival of Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery, who first encountered the native peoples of the Great Plains who knew nothing of France or the United States, but who subsequently fought “Colored” horse soldiers 60 years later, black men with “locks” so similar to the wooly hair between the horns of the bison that they began to call them Buffalo Soldiers.”

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