The decision to rename Kit Carson Park in Taos has sparked a storm of protest. The Taos Town Council decided to rename the entire park Red Willow Park, derived from the native Tiwa language word for Taos, while keeping the name Kit Carson Memorial Park for the cemetery where Carson and his wife Josefa are buried.
Changing the name has never been the cause of the controversy.
No, the controversy has been there, simmering under the surface, part of the ever-evolving discussion about the nature of the West, the conflict between invaders and the invaded, along with the debate over how changing values are causing us to reassess the “heroes” of the past.
Kit Carson was not an evil man. By all accounts, his life story is inspiring.
From simple beginnings, he became Indian scout, soldier, explorer and adventurer.
But his actions — even though he was following orders — in the U.S. Army war against the Navajos caused evil to occur to an entire people.
Carson should not be stricken from the history books, but perhaps even in his adopted hometown of Taos, his name doesn’t have to be written quite so large.
After all, another person buried in the cemetery in the Kit Carson Park is Padre Martinez — his legacy is essential as well. The good padre operated a newspaper, ran a school and published textbooks for the people of Taos.
Names change as times change. Instead of Squaw Peak in Arizona, we now have Piestewa Peak, named after Lori Piestewa, who was killed in the Iraq War.
Some day, the football team in the nation’s capital will no longer be synonymous with a racial slur.
Such revisions are part of the sweep of history.
— The Santa Fe New Mexican