The daughter of a Buffalo Soldier and former American prisoner of war is fighting to protect a military site utilized by one of the Army's historic black regiments from commercial development.
Jackie Jones-Hook, executive director of the 9th and 10th Horse Cavalry Buffalo Soldiers Museum in Tacoma, wants to enact state and federal protections to preserve a bivouac area used by the 9th U.S. Cavalry Regiment, or raise $1.62 million requested by the DuPont city attorney to purchase the site. Both options would protect the land from a local developer's plans to build warehouses there.
"It has huge military significance," Jones-Hook said. "This area was the genesis of Joint Base Lewis-McChord. During 1904, during the first American Lake Maneuvers, over 4,000 Buffalo Soldiers performed war games at this site."
Buffalo Soldiers is the nickname given to soldiers serving in the 10th Calvary Regiment — the U.S. Army's first black regiment formed after the Civil War. The term was eventually used to describe all black soldiers who served in the Army after the Civil War until the end of World War II.
Jones-Hook's father, William Jones, a Buffalo Soldier and a prisoner of war during the Korean War, requested that his time as a Buffalo Soldier be preserved before his death in 2009.
His daughter took his words to heart and in 2012, Jones-Hook established the 9th and 10th Horse Cavalry Buffalo Soldiers Museum in Tacoma — one of only two museums in the country dedicated to Buffalo Soldiers.
Jones-Hook hopes that by establishing a historical landmark at the site, local residents and families stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord will have the opportunity to experience history.
From the Sequalitchew Creek trailhead in DuPont, visitors can both experience the history of the American Lake Maneuvers and Camp Lewis while following a trail to the Puget Sound.
Jones-Hook, the Tacoma Buffalo Soldiers Museum and others are leading several efforts to prevent the Buffalo Soldier's contributions from being erased from the Pacific Northwest's memory.
Last year, the Buffalo Soldiers Museum received a $57,000 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, in collaboration with School's Out Washington and the Lewis Army Museum, to create a summer learning program for youth to experience the forgotten military history of the era.
"Without the full story, you can't really understand the history that has preceded us," said Dr. Darrell Millner, a professor emeritus of black studies at Portland State University. "It helps us understand where we came from, so we can understand where we are today. It's a part of education and learning that you can't replicate any other way."
Buffalo Soldiers courageously fought in every American war between the Civil War and World War II, despite the discrimination they faced both inside and outside of the military. They had the lowest desertion and court-martial rates of their time, even though they received some of the least-desirable horses, clothing and equipment.
"The story of the Buffalo Soldiers is intimately woven with the western movement and also with the racial history between the Civil War and the turn of the 20th century," Millner said.
While the inevitable growth and urbanization of South Puget Sound will surely create economic benefits for some, there is a lot to be lost if equally robust action is not taken to preserve the area's past.
"Every day, more people pass on who know the secrets, know the history, know the context and why it's important to themselves, their families and their communities," said Seattle resident Kevin Washington, the son of a Tuskegee Airman and a grandson of a Buffalo Soldier stationed at Fort Lawton.
"We would lose a context that would be completely different about how we treat each other, solve issues and move forward,"Washington said.