Association recruiting Buffalo Soldiers

Joe Terry: Courtesy photo Portales city councilman Oscar Robinson, left, speaks with his fellow buffalo soldier member Joe Terry, center, and Sen. Stuart Ingle, R-N.M., on the senate roundhouse floor in Santa Fe. The Llano Estacado Buffalo Soldier Association acted as the colorguard along with other Buffalo Soldiers for Santa Fe’s Centennial program last month. Ingle invited them because the Buffalo Soldiers were significant to New Mexico’s history.

By Christina Calloway: Cannon Connections

The Llano Estacado Buffalo Soldier Association in Roosevelt County is looking to recruit more active members.

Portales city councilman Oscar Robinson and Portales resident Joe Terry, are the only active members of the group.

The other board members were active in the organization of the group, but the time commitment and the physical requirements of becoming an active participant put limitations on the board members.

The group needs a minimum of 25 men to become a platoon.

Terry, who was recruited by Robinson in 2006 because of his expertise in weaponry and knowledge of history, and Robinson have been dedicated to educating others about Buffalo Soldier history since.

Every semester they do a special program for a graduate class at Eastern New Mexico University as well as smaller programs in local schools.

Recently the group served as the colorguard along with other buffalo soldier members at Santa Fe’s Centennial celebration in the senate roundhouse last month.

Sen. Stuart Ingle, R-Portales, invited the group to act as the color guard for the program because the Buffalo Soldiers are part of New Mexico’s history.

“I have to say I was pretty honored because a centennial celebration is once in a hundred years, it won’t happen again in my lifetime,” Terry said.

If fully formed, the group can participate in more historical events including Portales’ Heritage Day festivities. With more members they can also attend the battle sites in New Mexico, host more programs about their history, and stage re-enactments.

Terry is adamant that Buffalo Soldier history be taught in schools because they were significant to the building of New Mexico.

“The second you can walk into a classroom of fifth graders and nobody in the room knows what a Buffalo Soldier is, we’ve lost history,” Terry said.

According to Terry, the first Buffalo Soldier units built the infrastructure of New Mexico.

“They were mapping New Mexico territory, everything that led us to becoming a state,” Terry said.

The Buffalo Soldiers helped survey roads and put up telegraph lines, and other peace-keeping activities. Terry and other parts of New Mexico had a more hands-on history with Buffalo Soldiers.

For a long time, the Llano Estacado group had a negative stigma related to a tragedy that happened in 1877 when a two black Buffalo Soldiers died from dehydration during a battle with the Comanche Indians.

The site, a dot of a hill near Lingo also on the Texas border in southern Roosevelt County, has unofficially but been widely-know for generations as “Nigger Hill.”

“The name was an insult to African-American community,” Robinson said. “People who lived here for years accepted the name.”

Robinson teamed up with others in an effort to change the name of the hill to Buffalo Soldier Hill.

Robinson and a few others went through the state of New Mexico to change the name. It took 14 years until the name was finally changed in 2006.

“It is not right to leave the hill as a racial slur name, somebody named it that and nobody else objected but it took a while to get the state to recognize it and now there has been a change made,” Terry said.