February is Black History month and with that in mind, there is very little that is said about the contributions of African Americans in the outdoors or the black experiences of settling the west. People of color have always been a part of the building of this great country. We had many frontiersmen and women, cowboys, mountain men, trappers, traders, scouts and soldiers who were the trailblazers in the beginning of this nation. For instance, many of the free blacks or escaped slaves became premiere fur trappers in Canada and the Northwest Territory. Many of these facts are documented but never publicized for mass consumption or taught in school as part of American History.
One of the first multicultural expeditions that recently celebrated its 200 year was that of Lewis and Clark, with York and Sacagawea. York was a good hunter, cook, worker and team player and Sacagawea would lead, gathered fruits, vegetables, herbs and kept the peace with the many Indians they would encounter along the way. These two people were very essential for the survival of the group, but these were the only two who didn’t get paid for their loyal service on this historical expedition.
One of the most famous black moutainman, fur trapper, and adventurer extraordinaire was James P. Beckwourth. He was born in Virginia and grew up in St. Louis where his father had taught him to hunt; he later picked up the blacksmith trade. He soon joined a group of renowned fur trappers and that was the beginning of his adventures. In his lifetime he was a mountainman, fur trapper, War chief for the Crow Indians, and he had discovered a pass in the Sierra Nevada Range which was named after him, Beckwourth Pass. Pueblo Colorado was created by him and a few others traders. This is where they had their trading post.
Deadwood Dick was one of the best known cowboys of his time. His given name was Nate Love and his striking picture is always shown in books of the black cowboys. One out of three cowboys was black but you would never know from watching Hollywood westerns. Some of the black cowboys, who are documented and photographed, were Jesse Stahl, Bulldoggin’ Bill Picket.
Tom Bass became a Kansas City legend who was born in Mexico, Missouri. Mexico, Missouri was the hub of the best horses in the country and Tom Bass was known for being one of the best horse trainers and rider of his time He started a Kansas City Horse show which later branched into the World Famous American Royal.
There were women also, for instance Mary Fields also known as Stagecoach Mary. Mary ran the stage coaches and mail routes in Cascade, Tennessee for the U S Mail Service. They liked Mary because she was a driven and determined woman who would deliver her mail in sleet, snow, or whatever hard elements nature had to throw at her. Neither man nor beast could stop Mary. She was six feet tall, smoked cigars, carried her firearms and could hold her own with any man. Mary loved the outdoors and she would get her mail delivered.
Urban American Outdoors is very thankful for these and other unsung pioneers who had a love for the outdoors and were instrumental in the progress of our great nation. Today we must continue to be involved in the forward movement of our country. Our children must be taught correctly the past achievements of their ancestors and they must be prepared to embark upon the future. Outdoors has always been a part of American History and particular Black History. Outdoors means freedom in a lot of instances, and urban youth could benefit from all the great free programs available to learn about conservation and the world around them.
Currently, there are free classes for Hunter Safety Ed through the Conservation Department. These are one day classes which cover a lot of information concerning the outdoors. This is needed before a person or youth could go hunting. We at Urban American Outdoors are in the final stages of developing an organization and club for educating the urban core youth, which we will be here and nationwide. It will be use to reintroduce the black community to the great outdoors. It will also connect multicultural hunters worldwide; our main focus will be in providing our youth with fun outdoor activities and education that pertains to the outdoors. The children are the future and they must be given the proper tools to maintain their great heritage.