AP Photo/The Albuquerque Journal, Eddie Moore
The Taos Town Council passed a resolution to rename Kit Carson Park 'Red Willow' over concerns by critics that the famed scout was cruel to American Indians. (AP Photo/The Albuquerque Journal, Eddie Moore)

Kit Carson Park in Taos, NM, to Be Renamed 'Red Willow Park'

Alex Jacobs
6/17/14

Kit Carson is a famous pioneer and wilderness figure locally in New Mexico and nationally in Old Western lore. Red Willow is the traditional name of Taos Pueblo, Place of the Red Willow. On Tuesday June 10, the Taos Town Council voted to re-name the park in the center of the community from Kit Carson Park to Red Willow Park. Carson is a legendary figure and has his name on many landmarks, places, streets and buildings in the region. He was a trapper, mountain man and guide who married into the Jaramillo family as a fur trader. But what he was known for locally was as a hired guide to track, contain and round-up 8000 Navajo from their Canyon de Chelly stronghold to the Bosque Redondo exile on the infamous Long Walk. This experience of The Long Walk is still remembered as a terrible journey of misery and death by the Navajo people who will recite its effects on families and community up to the present day.

Carson was retired but the U.S. military convinced him to come out and help them round-up the Navajo to Ft. Sumner NM, actually a place of exile called Bosque Redondo. Accounts say Carson was reluctant and counted many Native People as his friends, but he became convinced he could help bring them in with less violence and death than the U.S. Army. Of course his name became associated with these actions and he became known as an Indian-killer.

Lyla June Johnston is a Taos resident, she’s a Stanford University graduate, a well-known poet, an activist and part Navajo. She founded The Regeneration Festival that honors the memories of many local teenagers who committed suicide in clusters over the last few years. This event takes place every Labor Day Weekend in this same park in the center of town. Navajo musicians who came to perform for The Regeneration Festival told everyone that it was difficult for them to enjoy themselves in the park named after Carson. Lyla Johnston and Chris Pieper called on Linda Yardley, Richard Archuleta, Andres Vargas, Lloyd Rivera, Steve Wiard and others to get together and to do something about the feeling that Taos Pueblo tribal members had when they visited town and saw the Kit Carson name everywhere. This group formed The Taos Peace and Reconciliation Council that would try to initiate a movement toward forgiveness and unity and away from division and conflict.

RELATED: Student Promotes Regeneration Festival to Show Youth They Are Sacred

They knew that the Kit Carson name was popular as a tourist draw for business but that it was possible to approach the idea by talking about some long standing issues among the local cultures, the Native, Hispanic and Anglo, now all called Taosen’os.

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