Skip to main content
Advertising

Originally published June 18, 2013 at 2:00 PM | Page modified June 18, 2013 at 2:01 PM

  • Share:
             
  • Comments (0)
  • Print

Bill would honor Buffalo Soldiers' role in parks

In the decades after the Civil War, the nation's first black Army regiments guarded Yosemite and Sequoia national parks against poaching and timber thefts, a role that in hindsight made them some of the United States' first park rangers.

Associated Press

Most Popular Comments
Hide / Show comments
No comments have been posted to this article.
Start the conversation >

advertising

SACRAMENTO, Calif. —

In the decades after the Civil War, the nation's first black Army regiments guarded Yosemite and Sequoia national parks against poaching and timber thefts, a role that in hindsight made them some of the United States' first park rangers.

Now as the National Park Service prepares for its 100th anniversary in 2016, there is a move in Congress to formally recognize the role of these "Buffalo Soldiers," who set aside their guns to build the first trail to the top of Mt. Whitney and the first wagon road into the Giant Forest.

On Monday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill by Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Francisco, allowing the federal government to study creation of a national historic trail along the 280-mile route the soldiers traveled between The Presidio in San Francisco, where they were stationed, and the Sierra Nevada they patrolled.

"This relates to a bigger goal we have - and that is to celebrate the centennial by diversifying our national parks so that they reflect all of our cultural heritages," said Ron Sundergill, senior regional director for the National Parks Conservation Association, which has pushed for the Buffalo Soldiers to be honored.

Companion legislation is being sponsored by California's Democratic senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer.

"Many African-Americans don't feel a cultural connection to the national parks because they don't feel a connection to the history," said Yosemite Ranger Shelton Johnson, a historian who interprets the park soldiers' lives. "It's good for the entire country to know that people of color and women made contributions to our parks."

The all African-American regiments were comprised of men from the South who faced limited economic opportunities. Native Americans named them "Buffalo Soldiers" because their curly hair resembled the tuft between the horns of a buffalo.

In times of peace, their mission was tough: to maintain order in a wild and often lawless region of California, while not arousing feelings of racial prejudice. The route they rode took them south through San Jose then over the Diablo Mountains and through the Central Valley.

Supporters hope that recognizing the soldiers leads to a broader awareness of the role African-Americans troops played in protecting resources, as well as fighting wars in Cuba and the Philippines.

"Children learn about Spanish missionaries, the 49ers, and the railroad barons, but how much do they know about the Buffalo Soldiers?" Speier said. "My hope is that their remarkable service to this country takes its rightful place alongside other great stories from the San Francisco Bay."

----

Reach Tracie Cone: http://www.Twitter.com/TConeAP

News where, when and how you want it

Email Icon

The Seattle Times wins top award for multimedia storytelling

The Seattle Times wins top award for multimedia storytelling

Our Sea Change series received a prestigious 2015 DuPont-Columbia award for showcasing the power of storytelling on the Web. Experience the report here.

Advertising

Partner Video

Advertising

Career Center Blog

Career Center Blog

Looking for joy on the job


Advertising
The Seattle Times

The door is closed, but it's not locked.

Take a minute to subscribe and continue to enjoy The Seattle Times for as little as 99 cents a week.

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Subscriber login ►