By MAGGIE MCMURRAY
Moapa Valley Progress
The Southern Nevada Chapter of the Las Vegas Buffalo Soldiers and local cowboy poets Kenny Marshall and Mahoney (David Perkins) put on a show on Saturday against the beautiful backdrops of the pueblos outside of the Lost City Museum. The presentation was full of history and humor. It was sponsored by the Moapa Valley Revitalization Project as part of the weekend-long Moapa Valley Days celebration.
Crowds started out light but increased as word spread among museum-goers of the great opportunity going on just outside.
The Buffalo soldiers displayed props and replicas of artifacts from actual Buffalo Soldiers which served to draw even more interest. Many attendees had never heard of the Buffalo soldiers and what their role was in the settlement of the west.
The show began with Chapter President Keith Hill doing a dramatic presentation which took on the persona of an actual Buffalo Soldier from history. Hill chose to become John Ward, also known as John Warrior.
He told the crowd about his birth on the Arkansas Trail of Tears. He explained that most people don’t realize that black Americans were also connected with the Trail of Tears. Black slaves frequently made their way to Florida in hopes of finding transport to Spain where slavery was outlawed.
Once in Florida, however, they came in contact with the Seminole Indians, one of the Indian tribes who were considered to be “civilized” because they had adopted many European ways, including farming. Needing someone to help run their farms, they captured many fleeing blacks. Through the years, these slaves took on the language, dress, and culture of the Seminoles.
When Andrew Jackson decreed that all Indians, including those in Florida, be moved to the “Indian Territories” these “Seminole-Negroes,” as they were known at the time, were included as part of that group.
Unfortunately, once the group arrived at their destination, they found that the government did not consider them as Native Americans. So they found themselves moved from their homeland without an income.
Joining with other recently freed black soldiers from the Civil War, many joined the US Army, which had only recently allowed them to join. Great numbers were drawn by the promise of a $13/month paycheck and food and housing.
These soldiers took on dangerous jobs such as Pony Express escorts, stage coach escorts, pioneer escorts, scouts, and many others. Despite receiving some of the most dreadful assignments the Army had to offer, these all-black regiments developed into some of the most distinguished fighting units in the Army.
The term “Buffalo Soldier” was originally given to the 9th and 10th Cavalry Regiment, but was later expanded to include other all-black regiments.
The Buffalo Soldiers were disbanded in 1944 when the Army began to integrate.
The Southern Nevada chapter of the Las Vegas Buffalo Soldiers is about 30 members strong. They frequently travel around the Las Vegas valley with their horses and do their presentation for schools, churches, parades, and other events.
“We were very pleased with the opportunity to come here today because we never pass up an opportunity to share about the Buffalo Soldiers and the great things they did to help establish the West,” Hill said. “I love sharing this history because it is not just black history, it is American history.”
After their show, members of the audience were invited to come and view all the memorabilia displayed.
Later in the day, a cowboy poetry recitation took place. With several cowboy poetry events going on this weekend around the west, it was hard to get a great number of poets to attend this event, said MaryKaye Washburn of the MVRP.
“So instead, we just got great poets!” she said.
Kenny Marshall from Logandale was joined by Mahoney (David Perkins) from Moapa. These two delighted and entertained the audience with their cowboy take on the most ordinary of things. Their presentation was at times reflective and often humorous, but always entertaining.
Those who attended really loved the presentations.
Leona and Wally Soltis of St. Cloud, MN, have been spending winters in Mesquite for the last 30 years. “We never miss an opportunity to come to events at the museum because they are always great and very well done and today was no different,” Leona said. “We had never even heard of Buffalo Soldiers before so this was a very enjoyable new experience for us.”
Dr. Bob Bayuk and his wife, Ruth, did not know of the special presentations. But they were visiting the museum when the event began and were thrilled to be able to join in. “We really feel fortunate,” Bob said. “There’s a lot of history that is really unknown and we’re grateful for the chance to learn more about it.”
Washburn and was pleased with how the event turned out. “This has been a popular program in the past and today was no different,” she said. “We’re really excited to have it hosted at the Lost City Museum this year. The backdrop of these beautiful pueblos is the perfect location to present programs like this.”
Washburn expressed appreciation to Marshall and Mahoney, and also the Buffalo Soldiers group for participating in the local event.