player and Detroit native Shelton Johnson, whose love of the
outdoors carried him from being a ranger at National Capital
Parks-East to Yellowstone, Great Basin, and Yosemite National
Parks, is telling American-African, Asian and Hispanic young
people, among all races and cultures, that the future of the
environment depends on them. Johnson, who is one of relatively
few African-Americans in the National Park Service working in
the wilderness parks, is also spreading the word about plans
by Park Rangers to encourage more Americans of diverse backgrounds
to pursue careers in the wilderness with the National Park Service.
Awareness that African-Americans as
Buffalo Soldiers in the cavalry ran off poachers, meadow destroying
sheep herds, locals coming into the park collecting firewood,
timber thieves, and explosives-laden miners came to Shelton Johnson
in the form of a photo passed down in a file to him. The picture
of a Buffalo Soldier in uniform prior to 1914 in Yosemite stirred
him in a quest of a whole chapter in the American environmental
movement that had been swept aside.
Buffalo Soldiers, with their roots in
the Union Army of the Civil War, rode out of the Presidio in
San Francisco each year and on a 14-day journey that took them
to San Jose and then over Pacheco Pass to Yosemite for seven
months or more each year. Until winter snow storms arrived they
were the guardians of Yosemite, Sequoia & General Grant (now
Kings Canyon) National Parks.
After hundreds of hours of research
into the Buffalo Soldiers who guarded the Parks between 1899
(24th Infantry) and 1903 and 1904 (Ninth Cavalry), self-realized
ranger Shelton Johnson appears before the Sierra Nevada Natural
History classes at Atwater High School , as Sergeant Elizy Boman,
wearing full uniform and carrying typical effects of a Buffalo
Soldier in 1903.