Date: 1/11/21 3:48 pm
From: sdseeger <sdseeger...>
Subject: Re: [birders] Buffalo Soldiers: The Original Park Rangers | The Student Conservation Association
You may already be aware, but there's a Buffalo Soldiers Heritage Center in
Rouge Park, a couple miles upriver from UM Dearborn and the former Rouge
River Bird Observatory.

On Mon, Jan 11, 2021 at 5:21 PM April Campbell <adc14...> wrote:

> Great story. I am a distant relative of Major Charles Young mentioned in
> this article.
> Buffalo Soldiers: The Original Park Rangers [image: Tioga Pass, gateway
> to an SCA internship at Devils Postpile National Monument]
> A View into History at Devils Postpile by SCA Member Leslie Redman
> *Driving into Yosemite National Park via Tioga Pass offers a prelude to
> the magnificent scenic views of the park’s wilderness.*
> Before beginning my internship at Devils Postpile National Monument, I
> made a pilgrimage to Yosemite National Park to experience John Muir’s Range
> of Light firsthand. I hoped that I would be lucky enough to meet a specific
> Park Ranger, whose book I had previously read, and attend his interpretive
> program. Entering the boundaries of the park on the historic Tioga Pass, I
> became a bit overwhelmed by the significance of the surrounding wilderness.
> Having learned about parts of Yosemite’s history prior to driving out west,
> I was excited to navigate my route through the park using roads blazed by
> the legendary Buffalo Soldiers. Members of four segregated units of the US
> Army, these original protectors of the National Parks of the Sierra Nevada
> built many of the roads and trails that are still used by visitors, and
> enacted and enforced restrictions on behalf of the Department of the
> Interior. After receiving maps and information from the Yosemite entrance
> booth, I learned that the ranger whom I admired only led his program on
> Sunday evenings. I was a day too early. This minor disappointment wouldn’t
> detract from my tremendous enjoyment of the granite cliffs, pristine
> meadows, and vast wilderness, but it set me up for a huge surprise a few
> weeks into my internship.
> *A very kind visitor took this candid photo of my unexpected introduction
> to Shelton Johnson. As you may observe from the expression on my face (on
> the right), this was a really exciting moment.*
> At Devils Postpile National Monument one afternoon a few weeks later,
> while arriving at the ranger station after collecting trash from the
> surrounding grounds, I noticed a tall figure in Cavalry uniform exiting the
> building. I hesitantly approached, reluctant to appear conspicuous while
> attempting to determine his identity. As he walked past, I sheepishly
> mumbled “Are you Shelton Johnson?” an unnecessary question since I
> immediately recognized him. He confirmed my suspicion before I even began
> telling him about his inspiring role in my journey to working in
> conservation. Our Law Enforcement ranger, Nina Weisman, then answered some
> of his questions about filming within our monument the next day.
> *The Buffalo Soldiers were a hit among visitors who were surprised to see
> men in Cavalry uniform wielding rifles throughout Devils Postpile
> National Monument.*
> Knowing how important the previous day’s meeting had been to me, Nina
> requested my assistance when the crew arrived to film. “Crowd control and
> trash collecting” were my official duties that day, but the few hours I spent
> conversing with Shelton were well worth the effort. I got to converse with
> Shelton about topics ranging from altitude acclimatization, the presence of
> Buffalo Soldiers in our valley, his journey into the National Park Service,
> and how often visitors fall off the top of the Postpile. It was an
> experience I will not soon forget.
> *Nina Weisman made an exception to the “no climbing on the rocks” rule for
> the military reenactors, who filmed scenes atop and at the base of the
> Devils Postpile.*
> As an interpretive ranger at Yosemite National Park, Shelton has been
> performing The Forgotten Yosemite: A Buffalo Soldier Remembers each Sunday
> for over fifteen years. During this passionate one-man show, he portrays
> Elizy Bowman, a 9th Cavalry sergeant of Troop “K” stationed in Yosemite
> from the summer of 1903 to 1904. 400 African American US Army soldiers were
> assigned to protect the parks of California’s Sierra Nevada from the summer
> of 1899 through 1904. Shelton and his crew were in the process of filming
> an adaptation of this program for future generations of Yosemite’s visitors
> to ensure that this interpretive living history of the Buffalo Soldiers
> tale would remain a staple in Yosemite’s programming and lore for many
> more years.
> *This photo depicts members of the 24th Mounted Infantry’s patrol of
> Yosemite during the summer of 1899. Ranger Shelton Johnson discovered this
> photo, which inspired his work resurrecting the history of the Buffalo
> Soldiers, in the Yosemite Research Library. (courtesy of the Yosemite
> Research Library and <>)*
> It may seem surprising, but these original supervisors of California’s
> National Parks have been basically forgotten; an unknown portion of
> American history. Shortly after the end of the Spanish-American War in
> early 1899, members of the US Army’s 24th Mounted Infantry and 9th Cavalry
> units were sent on a fourteen day journey east from the Presidio in San
> Francisco to Yosemite, Sequoia, and General Grant (Kings Canyon) Parks led
> by the legendary Captain Charles Young (who later became the first Acting
> Superintendent of Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Parks). Devils Postpile
> National Monument, where I work as an Interpretation Intern, was once part
> of the southern boundary of Yosemite and housed soldiers at Agnew Meadows
> and Reds Meadows posts.
> *Shelton and his fellow Cavalrymen film a scene in which the soldiers take
> a break from their patrol to investigate the extraordinary columnar basalt
> of the Devils Postpile.*
> Aside from building roads and facilities such as Tioga Pass in Yosemite,
> and others that are now used as hiking trails throughout Sequoia, these
> soldiers fought fires, caught poachers and loggers exploiting park
> resources, and enforced penalties for those who violated park rules. One of
> the more notable solutions to illegal grazing of sheep and cattle involved
> soldiers displacing shepherds from their herds in the most inconvenient of
> ways. For example, if soldiers out on a patrol in a park found a man
> grazing animals, they would typically eject him from one corner of the
> park, while relocating his herd to another corner, roughly 125 miles from
> each other. Terrain throughout the parks was rugged, but the men of the
> 24th Infantry and 9th Cavalry units were able to truly appreciate the
> Sierra wilderness in which they worked.
> *This glorious High Sierra landscape, which I enjoyed during a recent hike
> to Young Lake at Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite National Park, is as
> undisturbed and pristine as the park’s original protectors might have
> observed during their patrols.*
> Though they have been mostly overlooked throughout history, the Buffalo
> Soldiers who paved the way for modern Park Rangers have been resurrected in
> part by thoughtful historians and interpreters like Shelton Johnson. In
> addition to his weekly interpretive program, Shelton wrote Gloryland, a
> novel in which he elaborates on the life of Elizy Bowman prior to, and
> during, his tenure as a Cavalry sergeant in Yosemite National Park.
> Recently, Representative Jackie Speier of California has worked to enact
> the House of Representatives Bill 520: Buffalo Soldiers in the National
> Parks Study Act in order to authorize the Department of the Interior to
> conduct a study of alternatives for commemorating and interpreting the role
> of the Buffalo Soldiers in the early years of the National Park system. The
> US Postal Service has also commemorated Captain Charles Young and the
> service of the Buffalo Soldiers on a postage stamp, which we sell in our
> ranger station bookstore. It was an unexpected treat, and an absolute honor
> to speak at length with one of the most well-known and insightful
> interpretive National Park Rangers in the Service. Though many Americans
> are unaware of the rich history which he proliferates, I am completely
> intrigued and intend to continue spreading the word about the original
> official protectors of California’s incredible parks. Out of all of my
> experiences at work thus far, meeting Shelton Johnson is one of the
> greatest highlights.
> *This photo-op concluded one of the most memorable days of my internship
> at Devils Postpile National Monument.*
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