Rendezvous honors Buffalo Soldiers

Jay Clark is hopeful people of all cultures will come next weekend to the 8th annual Mid-Kansas Indian Wars Rendezvous.

And, he wants them all to tell stories and share history not often written in textbooks or taught in schoolrooms.

It is the story of Buffalo Soldiers and American Indians.

Clark, who helped organize the rendezvous in Haysville, is a member of the Nicodemus Buffalo Soldier Foundation, of which there are eight members.

“I fell in love with the education and wanted to give back to the African-American community” Clark said. “So much of our learned history is from one point of view. It is written by and for Caucasian people from their point of view. You talk with Indians and you hear a different version of how history unfolded. The whole point of the rendezvous is to get all nationalities to come out and tell their story. When you look at the United States of America we are all cultures and nationalities. By telling those stories, it’s the only way to get a true picture of what we really are.”

In 1866, African-American men were given full military status by Congress and the Army designated the 9th and 10th U.S. Cavalries as all-African-American regiments, known as Buffalo Soldiers.

“Buffalo Soldier” was the nickname frontier-era Indians gave to the black enlisted men. Fort Leavenworth served as the headquarters for the 10th U.S. Cavalry. The soldiers also served at other Kansas forts including Hays, Larned and Dodge City.

By the end of the Indian Wars, 18 Buffalo Solders were awarded the Medal of Honor, more than any Army unit. Despite lower pay, poorer equipment and harsher duties than those of white soldiers, the Buffalo Soldiers had the lowest desertion rate of any Army unit.

Clark said most of the members of the Nicodemus Buffalo Soldier Foundation are from Nicodemus, where it was founded in 1996. Nicodemus, a National Park Historic Site about 50 miles northwest of Hays, is best known for its 19th century pioneers of African descent.

“The thing I want to get across is that every Buffalo Soldier was given something second hand,” Clark said. “They got what was left over, including the horses. Yet, through the adversity and prejudice, they came out as the more decorated of all. No matter the circumstance or what people give you, it is how you use it and what you do with it that matter.”