Cultural dating perspectives
The claim that the Army treated these regiments as a scrap heap for discarded and useless materiel and horses was shown to be false by William Dobak and Thomas Phillips in their book The Black Regulars.All Army units, white as well as black, received left-over Civil War equipment and mounts, from a Department of War that focused on cutting costs and reducing manpower. On the scholarly side this myth found expression as recently as 1999 in historian Charles Kenner’s assertion that the Buffalo Soldiers' "lives and deeds have largely been overlooked." Only the year before, Bruce Glasrud's bibliography on African Americans in the West contained over twenty-four pages and more than 300 entries devoted to the black regiments.He went from there to assert that the name might have reflected the Indians' respect for the soldiers because the buffalo was so important to their culture and they would not have made the comparison if it had not been respectful.In a footnote, Leckie hedged his suppositions: "The origin of the term 'buffalo soldier' is uncertain, although the common explanation is that the Indian saw a similarity between the hair of the Negro soldier and that of the buffalo.They used the same dismissive epithets--”hostile tribes,” “naked savages,” and “redskins”—and the same racist caricatures employed by whites.Reminiscent of the use among whites of "blackface" to denigrate and stereotype African-Americans, a black private named Robinson went to a masquerade ball at Fort Bayard, New Mexico, in 1894, dressed as "an idiotic Indian squaw," according to a published report by a fellow soldier.In the course of forty years, Leckie’s cautious guesses evolved into the hyperbolic text on the Wal-Mart website.The giant retailer offered a Black History Month study guide in 2005, which declared that "Their name--Buffalo Soldiers--was bestowed on them by the Cheyenne people.
The 10th Cavalry's crest prominently displayed a bison, but it was designed and adopted in 1911, so while it may reflect some memory of the name dating from the regiment’s early days, it does not necessarily indicate acceptance of the name by black soldiers of the Indian-war period.
American Indian people fought to hold on to their traditions, their land, and their lives." These were not compatible, harmonious goals that could provide the basis for interracial harmony.
The idea that the buffalo-soldier combat record surpassed that of other units helps support the notion that the Indians might have been especially respectful of the black soldiers. These soldiers did participate in significant battles.
Why is a story that has been told repeatedly from multiple perspectives over the last two generations widely labeled “untold”?
The myth raises many questions that still await answers.