"Buffalo Soldier" is a reggae song written by Bob Marley and Noel G. "King Sporty" Williams from Marley's final recording sessions in 1980. It did not appear on record until the 1983 posthumous release of Confrontation, when it became one of Marley's best-known songs. The title and lyrics refer to the black U.S. cavalry regiments, known as "Buffalo Soldiers", that fought in the Indian Wars after 1866. Marley likened their fight to a fight for survival, and recasts it as a symbol of black resistance.
The song's bridge, with the lyrics woe! yoe! yo!, is similar to the chorus of the Banana Splits' "The Tra-La-La Song", the 1968 theme from their TV show, written by Mark Barkan and Ritchie Adams. There has never been any litigation connected to the similarity.
The origin of the term "Buffalo Soldier" is theorized as given to black troops by Native Americans, who compared the soldiers with the buffalo's strength and tenacity, and possibly how they thought African Americans' hair felt and looked (like a bison). Others claim it was in reference to how the soldiers tirelessly marched. In any case, the Buffalo Soldier's duties were settling railroad disputes, building telegraph lines, repairing and building forts, helping settlers find a place to live and protecting the settlers from Indian attacks.