Buffalo soldiers in our national parks - The Hill

This week I introduced legislation commemorating the Army’s first all-African- American units—we know them as the Buffalo Soldiers. I believe we must recognize the very important role these individuals played in our history, and especially their often-overlooked service in the early years of our National Parks.

The brave Buffalo Soldiers were, in essence, our nation’s first park rangers, and they left a rich historical legacy in California.

The Buffalo Soldiers in the National Parks Study Act is a key step in memorializing the role the Buffalo Soldiers played in shaping the National Parks that we all care for so deeply today.

We must ensure that the contributions of the Buffalo Soldiers—who bravely served our country at home and overseas, often in the face of intolerance and segregation—are remembered and honored by all.

A number of those Buffalo Soldiers patrolled Sequoia and Yosemite National Parks from their base at San Francisco’s Presidio, protecting the parks from loggers and poachers.

The bill, which has also been introduced in the House of Representative by Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), directs the Secretary of the Interior to commission a study that will do the following:

  • Evaluate the feasibility of establishing a national historic trail commemorating the route the Buffalo Soldiers traveled between their post at San Francisco’s Presidio and Sequoia and Yosemite National Parks.
  • Identify properties to be considered for the National Register of Historic Places or National Historic Landmarks. 
  • Develop educational initiatives and a public awareness campaign about the contributions of the Buffalo Soldiers.

I thank these brave individuals for their contributions to our country and invite my colleagues to join me in support of the Buffalo Soldiers in the National Parks Study Act.