Monday, August 18, 2014

Taos debates legacy of Kit Carson, hero and villain of the Southwest

Colorado liberally honors the mountain man, scout, and army leader Kit Carson. We have a 14,000-foot peak, a county, and a town all named after him. Carson spent his final months in Colorado, at a hamlet east of Pueblo called Boggsville. He died there in 1868. A few years before, he had reluctantly but vigorously prosecuted the U.S. war against the Navajo Indians in the Southwest. The brute strength of the U.S. Army prevailed, and in what is remembered as the Long March, the Navajo were forced to a reservation in southeastern New Mexico. That military campaign and the march in which so many Navajos died continue to be remembered, bitterly so. In New Mexico, elected officials in Taos in June removed Carson’s name from the 19-acre park where he and his third and final wife, Josefa Jaramillo Carson, are buried. In its place, the councilors chose Red Willow Park, using the English translation of the Pueblo word for Taos. The Taos Pueblo objected, claiming proprietary use of the Red Willow name. So, in July, the council restored Carson’s name while pledging to consider nominations. As the (Santa Fe) New Mexican pointed out in June, New Mexico remains deeply conflicted about its history. Several statues honor the Spanish conquistadors, or professional soldiers, of the 1500s and 1600s. But the statue of Don Juan de OƱate, a colonial governor, and others have been vandalized and in some cases spray-painted with the words “murderer” and “killer.”...more
Not everybody in Taos agrees with deletion of Carson’s name. “The big backlash that I’m getting from this community is ‘Don’t we have bigger fish to fry beyond the renaming of the park?’” Councilman Andrew Gonzales told The Taos News.
And even one councilman who supported a new name conceded it’s unlikely to resolve underlying problems. “The problem we have with bigotry or intolerance or any of these issues or conflicts between cultures is not going to be settled by the naming of the park,” Fred Peralta told the same newspaper.
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