Neighbors want new name for Kit Carson Mountain

Crestone, Colorado (AP) November 2010
 
Neighbors of Kit Carson Mountain in southern Colorado want to change the peak's name because of concerns about the Indian-fighting frontiersman.

Neighbors and Saguache County officials have signed petitions to rename the 14,165-foot peak Mount Crestone. The (Colorado Springs) Gazette reports that the U.S. Board on Geographic Names in Washington will decide on the proposals to rename the mountain within the next few months.

Kit Carson was a 19th century rancher and trapper who helped crush a Navajo uprising during the Civil War. Carson's name has been attached to a Colorado county and its largest military base, but some residents in the San Luis Valley say they'd rather not have Carson's name on the mountain.

"This beautiful mountain deserves better than to be named after such a shameful character of U.S. history," wrote one resident who signed the petition to rename the mountain.

Carson was a guide for Western explorer John C. Fremont, who became one of California's first senators, and is credited for helping organize a volunteer infantry in New Mexico for the Union during the Civil War.

But Carson also helped the federal government put down a wartime Navajo uprising by ordering the destruction of crops and villages belonging to Navajo Indians hiding in the Canyon de Chelly in northeastern Arizona. Carson then led the Navajo to a reservation on a forced march in 1864 that killed an estimated 300 Navajos.

"He was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Native Americans on the Long Walk. You could say he was acting on orders, but look at the Nazis carrying out orders under Hitler. Were they pardoned for it?" said Crestone resident Keno Menechino, who supports the change.

But many oppose changing the name of Kit Carson Mountain, one of Colorado's 54 "fourteeners," or peaks above 14,000 feet.

The Colorado Mountain Club and the U.S. Forest Service oppose the change. Among the complaints: There are two other popular fourteeners nearby with "Crestone" in the name: Crestone Peak and Crestone Needle.

"Kit Carson Mountain is very well-known among Colorado hikers and climbers. Changing the name would cause confusion in the area, not only for the public but to firefighting and search-and-rescue operations," Rio Grande National Forest spokesman Mike Blakeman said.

Others say Kit Carson is being unfairly judged.

"For a man of his time, the 1860s, he was generous, knowledgeable and he did good work for the government. It wasn't his idea to pacify the Navajo. The government told him to do it," said Crestone attorney Fred Bauder.

"It was a different time and he really needs to be judged by the standards of his time."



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