Legacy, his­tory come alive dur­ing Buf­falo Sol­dier Day

San Antonio Express-News - - METRO - By Melissa Fletcher Stoeltje STAFF WRITER

It may have looked like a sim­ple toy, but the con­trap­tion Braxsten Williams, 12, and his brother, Bren­nyn, 8, played with Sun­day in the fields be­hind the In­sti­tute of Texan Cul­tures car­ried the full weight of his­tory — one ob­scured for too long.

“Come on, guy, get over!” ex­claimed Bren­nyn, pinch­ing to­gether two sticks to make a small, wooden fig­ure tied at the top do flip-flops.

“You got to pinch lower,” said Clifton Fifer, dressed in Buf­falo Solider re­galia as he stood be­side an ar­ray of toys, tools, an­i­mal hides and other ar­ti­facts used by African-Amer­i­can sol­diers who en­listed in the in­fantry and cavalry units as­signed to the Texas fron­tier af­ter the Civil War.

The Buf­falo Sol­diers — their ser­vice

long ne­glected by the sands of time — scouted and mapped Texas lands. They pro­tected set­tlers, traders and the mail, in­stalled tele­graph lines and car­ried out nu­mer­ous other tasks that helped shape early Texas.

The half-dozen or so Buf­falo Sol­dier in­ter­preters who re­galed the kids and their par­ents at the mu­seum did so as part of DreamWeek San An­to­nio, which be­gan in 2013 and com­prises events across the city aimed at ex­plor­ing the past and find­ing a vi­sion for the fu­ture.

But Sun­day’s event had one spe­cific goal in mind — cap­tur­ing the legacy of the Buf­falo Sol­diers for an au­di­ence that might not glimpse it else­where.

That was the mis­sion of Braxsten and Bren­nyn’s mother, Dana Williams, who home­schools her sons and is al­ways look­ing for a way to broaden their ed­u­ca­tion, she said.

“Es­pe­cially when it comes to African-Amer­i­can

his­tory,” she said, watch­ing as her hus­band, Julius Williams, helped the boys make the wood fig­ure flipflop. “I like them to see the con­tri­bu­tions of their an­ces­tors, any­thing that will make the his­tory come alive. And it re­ally opens my eyes to what I didn’t learn in school — what was deleted.”

At a neigh­bor­ing tent, Buf­falo Sol­dier in­ter­preter Allen Mack made Lucy Stal­cup, 2, gig­gle as the two rode wooden stick horses around.

“This is im­por­tant, be­cause grow­ing up I didn’t see peo­ple who looked like me in the his­tory books,” said Mack, who be­longs to a group of Buf­falo Solider in­ter­preters with the Texas Parks & Wildlife Depart­ment. “If I had, my life may have been a lit­tle bit dif­fer­ent. We’re all about in­still­ing pride and teach­ing his­tory.”

At other tents, chil­dren learned how to pack a ruck­sack for a fron­tier pa­trol, read maps, track wild an­i­mals and play games that the sol­diers en­joyed while off duty.

“How did they brush their teeth?” Elena Gutierrez, 4, asked Wil­liam Reece, a Buf­falo Sol­dier in­ter­preter for 12 years with the Liv­ing His­tory Foun­da­tion in Austin.

“They made a paste with coal from the fire­place and minty leaves,” he replied.

Luis Padilla, pro­gram su­per­vi­sor of the park’s depart­ment Buf­falo Sol­diers pro­gram, said his group does more than 80 his­tor­i­cal demon­stra­tions and other events around Texas each year.

“We specif­i­cally tar­get what is nor­mally not taught in the schools, or not taught with great de­tail,” he said. “We also in­clude ev­ery­one — the His­panic and Asian sol­diers who served along­side the Buf­falo Sol­diers, the white of­fi­cers, the Na­tive Amer­i­cans, who were a huge part of the his­tory. You can’t ac­cu­rately tell his­tory with­out in­clud­ing ev­ery­one.”

Pho­tos by Jerry Lara / Staff Pho­tog­ra­pher

In­ter­preter Allen Mack, left, talks with Charles John­son, of the Buf­falo Sol­diers Mo­tor­cy­cle Clubs, dur­ing Buf­falo Sol­dier Day on Sun­day at the Univer­sity of Texas at San An­to­nio In­sti­tute of Texan Cul­tures.

Lucy Stal­cup, 2, helps round up bad guys with help from Allen Mack. Buf­falo Solider Day was part of DreamWeek.

Jerry Lara / Staff Pho­tog­ra­pher

Gil Tafolla Her­nan­dez talks about his great-grand­fa­ther, San­ti­ago, who was a cat­tle rancher, Methodist min­is­ter and fought in the Texas-In­dian and Civil Wars, among other things.

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