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Taos clears hurdle in renaming Kit Carson Park

By: Associated Press
June 18, 2014 Updated: June 18, 2014 at 10:11 pm
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photo - This photo taken on Wednesday, June 11, 2014, shows Kit Carson's grave in Kit Carson Memorial Cemetery at Kit Carson Park in Taos, N.M. The Taos Town Council passed a resolution Tuesday to rename the downtown park Red Willow over concerns by critics that the famed scout was cruel to American Indians. (AP Photo/The Albuquerque Journal, Eddie Moore) MANDATORY CREDIT
This photo taken on Wednesday, June 11, 2014, shows Kit Carson's grave in Kit Carson Memorial Cemetery at Kit Carson Park in Taos, N.M. The Taos Town Council passed a resolution Tuesday to rename the downtown park Red Willow over concerns by critics that the famed scout was cruel to American Indians. (AP Photo/The Albuquerque Journal, Eddie Moore) MANDATORY CREDIT 

TAOS, N.M. — The town of Taos can rename an old state park that's been named for years after scout and explorer Kit Carson, New Mexico officials said Tuesday.

The New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department reviewed a 1990 deed that shows Taos cannot lose ownership over the renaming of Kit Carson Park, the Albuquerque Journal reported (http://bit.ly/1oFTcXr).

"Under this deed, the park only reverts back to state if the town of Taos fails to 'operate and maintain' the property as a park. Therefore, a name change of the park is not a condition for reversion," department spokesman Jim Winchester said.

The Taos Town Council last week passed a resolution 3-1 to change the downtown park's name to Red Willow Park. Several American Indian activists told councilmembers that being in the park felt uncomfortable, given Carson's history with the Navajo tribe.

"We have got to heal the wreckage of the past, and Kit Carson is part of that," Council Member Fritz Hahn said during the meeting.

Carson, who died in in 1868, is buried in the cemetery at the park, and his name is all over Taos. He largely is known as an explorer, trapper, soldier and American Indian agent.

But Carson was ordered by the U.S. Army to relocate around 8,000 Navajo men, women and children 300 miles from Arizona to Fort Sumner, New Mexico, on what's called the Long Walk. An estimated 200 Navajos died from cold and starvation after traveling in brutal and harsh winter conditions for almost two months.

Fort Carson, the army post in Colorado Springs, was named in honor of Kit Carson. The Mountain Post was originally called Camp Carson.

Taos Pueblo tribal Secretary Ian Chisholm said the pueblo viewed the council's actions as a gesture of "healing and reconciling the past."

Officials with the Kit Carson Home and Museum in Taos have so far declined to comment on the matter.

Native American and indigenous sensitivities have been in the national forefront recently. A federal trademark board ruled Wednesday that the Washington Redskins nickname is "disparaging of Native Americans" and that the NFL team's trademark protections should be canceled, a decision that applies new financial and political pressure on the team to change its name.

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Information from: Albuquerque Journal, http://www.abqjournal.com

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