Kit Carson Memorial Park in Taos, New Mexico is to be renamed Red Willow Park after a June 10 vote by the town council.

Unifying Humanity: Kit Carson Park to Become Red Willow Park

Lyla June Johnston

As a half European and half Navajo woman, I had a difficult time watching the two sides of my ancestry divided. So often these two sides would speak to each other in derogatory terms and live worlds apart. On one hand you had discriminatory mascots for Euro-American sports teams. On the other hand I have heard Navajo children say “we don’t get along with Biligaanas.Biligaana is a Navajo word for pale-skinned person and literally translates as “the ones we fight with.” The two opposing pressures almost split me in half growing up. I always yearned for my respective families to see how beautiful they each were and to realize they were actually part of a larger whole, a larger family.

On a more microcosmic level, I stood toe-to-toe with separation as a four-year-old witnessing the divorce of my family. It was very difficult for me, but I know now that it was an important experience I was meant to have. It taught me so many lessons. Ever since I have been propelled by an invisible yet passionate wind to bridge divided worlds. I resonated deeply with a poignant quote by Black Elk, a Lakota prophet: “I saw the sacred hoop of my people was one of the many hoops that made one circle, wide as daylight and as starlight, and in the center grew one mighty flowering tree to shelter all the children of one mother and one father.” Even though it came by difficult means, I know that this drive to unify humanity is a gift and a blessing.

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

Chris Pieper, a local business owner, and I called upon people of many colors to discuss the possibility of rechristening Kit Carson Park in Taos, New Mexico.

“In 1863, the Indian fighter Kit Carson received orders from James H. Carleton, governor and commander of New Mexico Territory, to destroy the Navajo people. Kit Carson’s scorch and burn campaign against the Navajo people literally left the Navajo homeland burning as thousands of Navajo refugees, who were reduced to starvation and poverty, were herded into American forts and then forced to march to the Bosque Redondo reservation at Fort Sumner, New Mexico,” reads a statement from November 2013 released by Dr. Jennifer Rose Denetdale, Navajo, an associate professor of American Studies at the University of New Mexico.

Linda Yardley and Richard Archuleta of Taos Pueblo, Andrés Vargas of Ranchos de Taos, Lloyd Rivera of Talpa, Steve Wiard of El Prado, Pieper, originally from California, and myself, a 21st century mixed-breed raised in Taos, New Mexico would sit at one table to discuss the park. We’d laugh, cry and pray while dedicating ourselves to improving the lives of all children of all races.

From these meetings The Taos Peace and Reconciliation Council was formed. The prayer driving our attempt to rename the park was to make baby steps toward forgiveness between our respective cultures. It pains our hearts to know that the renaming has in some cases resulted in further division and conflict, as this was the very thing we hoped to quell. I for one express my most sincere apologies to anyone who has felt hurt by our suggestion and how it has developed. My hope is that we can come to consensus and forgiveness on the matter soon and find a way to make it right.


You need to be logged in in order to post comments
Please use the log in option at the bottom of this page