Lyla Johnston: Park shouldn't be named after symbol of conflict

The "Indian fighter" Kit Carson, who led the forced removal of the Navajo people to Bosque Redondo. Photo from U.S. Library of Congress

Lyla Johnston explains why she supports a new name for Kit Carson Park in New Mexico:
Last February, Chris Pieper and I called upon people of many colors to discuss to the possibility of rechristening Kit Carson Memorial Park: Linda Yardley and Richard Archuleta from the Pueblo, Andrés Vargas of Ranchos de Taos, Lloyd Rivera of Talpa, Steve Wiard of El Prado, Chris Pieper, originally from California, and myself. From these meetings The Taos Peace and Reconciliation Council was formed. The prayer driving our attempt to rename the park was to make a baby step towards 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.

When we first brought our proposition to Mayor Dan Barrone, I felt in my heart that if the project went through, we could help liberate the whole of society from the hardship of our collective past. Native peoples wanted to be heard. Euro-Americans wanted to redeem past trespasses. This symbolic gesture, I thought, would accomplish both at once and break our people—all people—from the chains of separation and shame we have inherited.

I for one have nothing against Kit Carson as a man. My elders taught me to never judge another because you never know what they have been through or how they ended up where they ended up. Our reasoning to rename the park was not the man himself but the symbol the man had become. As a colonel in the U.S. Army his name became a symbol of armed conflict. As a man who was associated with the unwarranted incarceration of thousands of Native Americans, his name became a symbol of oppression. The question I have asked ever since I was a little girl is this: Why would we choose to name a public park after a man whose name symbolizes armed conflict and oppression?

Get the Story:
Lyla Johnston: Why we prayed for a new name (The Taos News 6/22)

More Opinions:
Sylvia Rodríguez, Rebecca Hall, Peggy Nelson, Thom Allena and Fabi Romero: To councilors Cantu, Gonzales and Hahn (The Taos News 6/20)
Diana Smith: What's in a name? Plenty! (The Taos News 6/21)
Judge Kit Carson by his time, not ours (The Albuquerque Journal 6/22)

Also Today:
Taos clears hurdle in renaming Kit Carson Park (AP 6/21)
Kit Carson: ‘The most hated white guy in American history?’ (The Albuquerque Journal 6/20)
Papers don’t prohibit name change for Taos park (The Albuquerque Journal 6/18)

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