New Yosemite And Sequoia National Parks Tour Keeps History Of America’s “Buffalo Soldiers” Alive

Filmmaker Ken Burns And Leading Tour Operator Tauck Tell The Story Of Pioneering African-American Soldiers

The Buffalo Soldiers were African-American U.S. Army troops who served in the American West and elsewhere during the late 1800s and early 1900s. Native American in origin, the term “Buffalo Soldier” has been attributed variously to the soldiers’ fierce fighting ability, and to the resemblance of the soldiers’ hair to a tuft of fur found atop the heads of buffalos.

What is more firmly established is that Buffalo Soldiers from the 9th Cavalry and 24th Infantry were garrisoned in San Francisco’s Presidio in 1899, shortly after Yosemite and Sequoia were established as national parks. Seeking to protect the parks’ resources in the era before park rangers, the Army deployed the Buffalo Soldiers to the parks to prevent illegal grazing and poaching, discourage timber thieves and serve a host of other functions. Performing admirably despite having little official authority, the Buffalo Soldiers endured long hours in the saddle, separation from home and family, and the overt racism common to the era.

According to filmmaker Burns, the Buffalo Soldiers had “the very complicated and difficult task of trying to take care of this place, being African-Americans in a country that had just freed the slaves, but was not yet sure what the African-American role would be in our society.” Burns, who created the award-winning documentary series “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea,” sees the story of the Buffalo Soldiers as a way of weaving African-American history into the National Parks experience.

“We’ve had in the United States a very complicated history with race, obviously. But what we’ve tended to leave out is the story of African-Americans, not as a separate part of our national narrative, but interwoven with it,” said Burns. “The significance of the Buffalo Soldiers is a way for African-Americans to say, ‘We are part of this history,’ ‘We have been part of this history.’ They are – in fact – a huge part of the history. And with regards to the National Parks, they are crucial.”

Tauck’s “Yosemite And Sequoia: John Muir’s California” itinerary begins with two nights in San Francisco, where guided sightseeing will include a visit to the historic Presidio where the Buffalo Soldiers were garrisoned. At the Presidio, Tauck guests will learn of the Buffalo Soldiers’ roots in the post-Civil War era, their service with Teddy Roosevelt’s “Rough Riders” in Cuba, and their role in the Philippine-American War. In Sequoia National Park. Tauck guests will hear the story of Buffalo Soldiers commander Charles Young, the third African-American to graduate from West Point and the first to oversee one of America’s National Parks. Guests will also get Burns’s own personal perspectives on the Buffalo Soldiers during a special 20-minute film produced exclusively for Tauck, featuring interview footage with Burns and special excerpts from his National Parks documentary.

A SPECIAL PRESENTATION BY PARK RANGER SHELTON JOHNSON

A true highlight for many guests on the Tauck journey will take place in Yosemite National Park, when they have the opportunity to “meet” a Buffalo Soldier as portrayed by Shelton Johnson. An African-American Park Ranger and Buffalo Soldiers expert, Johnson is an author and educator who has been awarded the National Park Service’s highest honor for ranger interpretation. Johnson was prominently featured in the Burns National Parks documentary, and his “in-character,” interpretive presentation is a special Tauck-exclusive experience.

Tauck’s Yosemite tour (from $4,290 per person, double-occupancy, plus airfare) begins with a two-night stay at The Weston St. Francis in San Francisco, complete with guided sightseeing. The itinerary next includes a pair of two-night stays at “inside-the-park” lodges in Sequoia and Yosemite National Parks (with daily sightseeing and other activities), before concluding with a final night at the Fairmont San Francisco.

Those interested in more information should contact their local travel professional, call Tauck at 1 800 468 2825, or visit www.tauck.com.

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