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Taos extends talks about renaming Kit Carson Park

Rivera Sun holds a red willow branch while speaking in support of changing the name of Kit Carson Memorial Park to Red Willow Park
Rivera Sun holds a red willow branch while speaking in support of changing the name of Kit Carson Memorial Park to Red Willow Park. Behind her is Taos Town Manager Rick Bellis, left, and council member Fritz Hahn. (T.S. Last/Journal)
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TAOS – The Taos Town Council on Tuesday decided to hear from the public about the controversial renaming of Kit Carson Park, with one council member saying he regretted voting earlier this month for a new name.

After more than an hour of public comment on the issue, Mayor Daniel Barrone announced the Kit Carson proposal will be placed on the agenda at the council’s July 8 meeting to allow more residents to weigh in.

The council earlier this month passed a resolution for the new name – Red Willow Park – “to reconcile the transgressions of the past,” according to council member Fritz Hahn. The 3-1 vote came after a presentation that included some Taos Pueblo members who do not see Carson as the hero he’s made out to be in history books.

Kit Carson is revered as a frontiersman and military officer, but he is also known as the man who led the Long Walk of 1864

Kit Carson is revered as a frontiersman and military officer, but he is also known as the man who led the Long Walk of 1864. (Journal File)

While Carson is revered as a frontiersman, scout, trapper and military officer, he is also known as the man who led the Long Walk of 1864, in which 8,000 to 9,000 Navajos were rounded up and marched to Bosque Redondo near Fort Sumner.

Council member Andrew Gonzales said he was sorry he voted to change the name of the park, saying he made his decision in an uninformed way and “failed” the entire community by not allowing everyone’s voice to be heard.

Gonzales made his comments right after Taos resident David Van Epps chastised the council for rushing into a decision without holding public hearings.

“It was wrong,” Van Epps said. “The people of the town of Taos have a right to know when changes are going to be made. They have a right to know what those changes will be, and a right to participate in the decision.”

Michelle Concha, the daughter of former Taos Pueblo Gov. Michael Concha, also asked that the public forum be extended to include indigenous people. She said many people from the pueblo were unable to attend the meeting Tuesday because they were participating in the Feast of San Juan.

About 15 people spoke during the public forum, most of them in favor of the change and some of them holding red willow branches.

The town’s name was derived from the Tiwa word for red willow, which several speakers said is used as medicine. It is also a symbol of the sacred hoop and people coming together in reconciliation.

“Saying ‘sorry’ is a gesture that acknowledges that someone was hurt and you care,” said Rivera Sun, who was reading a statement by her friend, Chrystalline Concha. “I believe renaming the park is doing just that. It’s a kind and compassionate gesture.”

David Cortez mentioned the push to change the name of the Washington Redskins professional football team.

“The U.S. patent office saying it’s offensive supports what you’re doing. And more places should to it,” he said.

Only a few people were opposed to the change.

Gabriel Chavez, who served 21 years in the military, said he was disturbed and appalled by the idea. He said people have misrepresented Carson as an Indian killer.

“When you accepted that as a fact, you accepted that everybody who has served in the military, you have branded them as murderers and killers. That includes me,” he said.

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