Archive for December 27th, 2011
Some of the first and most important protectors of America’s national parks were black soldiers. They were lauded for many achievements while stationed in the beautiful lands across the country, especially for their firefighting work in Glacier National Park in the early 1900s.
Missoulian’s Tristan Scott explores the rich history of the “Buffalo Soldiers’” past, including how the Natives of the land were affected by the unique presence.
Native Americans reportedly bestowed the nickname “Buffalo Soldiers” on the black troops with affection, likening the kinkiness of their hair to that of a buffalo.
But the relationship between the soldiers and the tribes, as Scott writes, was complex and often ugly.
- But early regiments, many of them former slaves, also conducted campaigns against tribes on the western frontier, particularly in the southwest states like Texas and Arizona, but including Montana.
“It is one of the ironies of American history that … black soldiers had to earn their reputation as proficient troops by assisting in the suppression of [Native Americans] and by acting as strike breakers,” wrote John H. Nankievell in his book “Buffalo Soldier Regiment: History of the Twenty-fifth United States Infantry, 1869-1926.”
. . .
“It is not always a celebratory story, but it’s a history of our culture,” said (Alan Spears, a legislative representative for the National Parks Conservation Association). “As we look at enhancing cultural diversity in the national parks, what I think is important about these stories is that the early American West was a far more diverse place than we originally believed. African Americans have always been in these parks and on these Western landscapes, far more than we knew.”