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Celebrating Black History Month: The Buffalo Soldiers

Editor’s Note: Each week throughout Black History Month, Buckrail will be highlighting a story that celebrates Black history in a way that is unique to our region. We invite our readers to learn more about Black History Month here.

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK — Before there was the National Park Service, a group of men called the Buffalo Soldiers protected national parks across the U.S. West.

These men were assigned by the U.S. Army to perform a wide range of duties prior the establishment of the National Park Service (NPS).

In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, roughly 500 Buffalo Soldiers served at Yosemite National Park and Sequoia and General Grant (now Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks). Their work ranged from protecting wildlife from poachers to building trails and roads.

During this time, Buffalo Soldiers also tested the effectiveness of bicycles as a mode of transportation for the army. In the late 1890’s, the Fort Missoula Buffalo Soldier Bicycle Corps took a grueling journey on bicycles to Yellowstone before making a 1,900-mile ride from Fort Missoula, Montana, to Saint Louis, Missouri.

The NPS says they faced inadequate supplies and challenging terrain, as well as egregious racism and discrimination along their journey.

“Despite these challenges, however, they earned a reputation for serving courageously and helped establish a precedent for park management and stewardship that continues to this day,” said the NPS.

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