State House honors Buffalo Soldiers

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OLYMPIA — The House of Representatives honored the Buffalo Soldiers, an African-American cavalry unit known for their valor based in the west after the Civil War, in a resolution on March 22.

The resolution, sponsored by Rep. Tom Dent, R-Moses Lake, comes after the 2016 anniversary of the formation of the Buffalo Soldiers. The unit based in Seattle attended the resolution and was recognized formally by the house.

Gerome “Outlaw” Young, who manages the horses for The Buffalo Soldiers, said the group was honored for their work to impart a little known part of American history to the next generation.

He said many people aren’t aware of the role the buffalo soldiers played in American history, staying relevant from their inception in the late 1870s until integration of the military after World War II.

“When we talk to the young people out there that are kind of going different directions,” Young said. “They don’t have a clue there were actually black cowboys; the term itself cowboy was an endearment of a black man who worked on a cow ranch.”

The resolution goes into the history of the Buffalo Soldiers, citing their motto, “Ready and Forward,” and the history of their name. The nickname “Buffalo Soldiers” that is still used today was given to African American military units by the Native Americans they faced in battle.

Young said the Buffalo Soldiers showed bravery and perseverance in the face of racial prejudices in the military. He said legend has it, military horse training strategies such as using a horse as a shield during battles on the plains, were first done by Buffalo Soldiers and black horse trainers.

Dent first met the unit when they both rode in the Ellensburg parade last summer. After a few interactions, he was impressed by their work to engage with communities and educate the public. After regular meetings with the group during the interim, Dent and Legislative staff drafted the resolution.

“I’m just in a position to say thank you,” Dent said. “There’s some perks to this job, and one of them is you can do something for people like that, and honor them.”

Dent said he appreciated the work that goes into costuming, reenactments and rodeos the Buffalo Soldiers do, but he is impressed with the engagement the group has with youth.

“They go to these parades and they go to these fairs, they keep their history alive,” Dent said. “But they do more than that that we don’t see. They go to schools, they reach out to where young people are.”

Young said he hadn’t heard of the Buffalo Soldiers, or anything about black history in the west until he joined the group. He hopes someday the information they share during events will be standard materials in schools.

“I didn’t know the history to the extent that I do now, and mainly because it’s not out there.” Young said.

“That’s what led me to become a Buffalo Soldier. I loved horses and all of the sudden you give me a chance to do horses and spread the history of our ancestors, the people who made it possible for me to do anything, without a doubt I jumped at the chance.”

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