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Vandalism damages monument to frontiersman ‘Kit’ Carson, who led campaigns against Native Americans

by Ryan Lee
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Legacy and Controversy

Investigation Underway into Defacement of Monument Honoring ‘Kit’ Carson, Renowned Frontiersman and Commander Against Native Americans

Authorities in the capital city of New Mexico are currently engaged in a thorough inquiry following the partial defacement of a prominent public monument dedicated to Christopher “Kit” Carson, a notable figure from the 19th century who played a significant role as a frontiersman and United States soldier. Carson’s historical legacy is marked by his involvement in campaigns that resulted in the deaths of numerous Native Americans during the era of Anglo-American expansion into the American West.

Since 2020, the monument has been safeguarded by a plywood enclosure to prevent any further damage. This measure was taken in response to the broader movement within Santa Fe to remove representations of historical individuals who were implicated in the mistreatment of Native Americans. This movement unfolded amidst a nationwide reckoning with issues of racial injustice.

The upper pinnacle of the monument was toppled on a recent Thursday evening. Visual evidence showcases an abandoned pickup truck alongside a cable that could have been utilized to inflict the destruction. In the previous year, the monument endured an incident in which activists splashed red paint on it during Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

Historical records reveal that Carson executed military directives that necessitated the Navajo people’s submission by means of devastating their crops, livestock, and residences. This endeavor led to the loss of many Navajo lives during the forced relocation known as the Long Walk, which commenced in 1863, and during their extended internment in eastern New Mexico.

The turning point arrived with the signing of the Navajo Treaty in 1868, signifying the end of this chapter. This treaty permitted the Navajo to return to their homeland, a region that has subsequently become the most extensive Native American reservation in the United States in terms of both territory and population.

In response to the most recent act of damage to the monument, Mayor Alan Webber of Santa Fe issued a formal statement condemning the incident as a “cowardly act.” The mayor, a member of the Democratic Party, emphasized the need for the perpetrators to be apprehended and held accountable. He staunchly affirmed that such criminal conduct has no place in their community.

The jurisdiction over the monument has been confirmed to fall under federal purview, as it is situated outside a U.S. courthouse in the heart of downtown Santa Fe. The U.S. Marshals Service, entrusted with safeguarding federal courts, was not immediately reachable for comment.

Mayor Webber has undertaken efforts to mitigate tensions surrounding various historical markers linked to Spanish colonialism and Anglo-American settlers. However, these endeavors have yielded mixed results. Notably, in 2020, activists managed to topple a monument in Santa Fe’s central square dedicated to U.S. soldiers who participated not only in the Civil War but also in armed campaigns against Native Americans, portraying them as “savage” through engravings that were etched into the monument decades earlier.

Earlier this year, the city council opted to abandon a proposal for the reconstruction of the plaza monument, along with the addition of new plaques, due to a surge of concerns and controversies.

In the preceding year, the governor of New Mexico nullified territorial-era decrees that targeted Native Americans, asserting that the annulment of these proclamations from the pre-statehood era would contribute to the process of healing historical wounds.

Carson’s multifaceted life, encompassing roles as a fur trapper, scout, and messenger, was extensively chronicled in dime novels and newspaper accounts, rendering him a legendary figure during his lifetime. Following his passing in 1868, he was interred in Taos, marking the culmination of his impactful journey.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Legacy and Controversy

What was the recent incident involving the monument dedicated to Christopher “Kit” Carson?

The recent incident involved the partial destruction of a public monument honoring Christopher “Kit” Carson, a 19th-century frontiersman and U.S. soldier known for his involvement in campaigns against Native Americans.

Why was the monument encircled by a plywood barrier since 2020?

The monument was encircled by a plywood barrier in 2020 as a protective measure following a movement to remove historical figures connected to the mistreatment of Native Americans in Santa Fe.

What caused the damage to the monument’s upper spire?

The damage to the monument’s upper spire occurred when it was toppled, possibly using an abandoned pickup truck and a cable.

What actions did Kit Carson carry out that led to controversy?

Kit Carson executed military orders to force the surrender of the Navajo people, resulting in the destruction of their crops, livestock, and homes. This led to significant loss of Navajo lives during the forced relocation known as the Long Walk and during detention in eastern New Mexico.

What marked the end of this chapter in Native American history?

The signing of the Navajo Treaty of 1868 marked the end of this chapter, allowing the Navajo people to return to their homeland, which has since become the largest Native American reservation in the United States.

How did Mayor Alan Webber respond to the monument damage?

Mayor Alan Webber of Santa Fe condemned the damage as a “cowardly act” and called for the perpetrators to be apprehended and held accountable.

What is the jurisdiction of the monument’s case?

The monument falls under federal jurisdiction, situated outside a U.S. courthouse in downtown Santa Fe.

How has Mayor Webber addressed tensions around historical markers?

Mayor Webber has attempted to address conflicts around historical markers related to Spanish colonialism and Anglo-American settlers, with varying degrees of success.

What was the significance of the monument toppled in Santa Fe’s central square?

The monument toppled in Santa Fe’s central square commemorated U.S. soldiers who participated in armed campaigns against Native Americans, portraying them as “savage.”

How did the governor of New Mexico address historical grievances?

The governor nullified pre-statehood orders targeting Native Americans, aiming to facilitate healing of historical wounds caused by these proclamations.

What legacy did Kit Carson leave behind?

Kit Carson’s multifaceted life, documented in dime novels and newspapers, encompassed roles as a fur trapper, scout, and messenger. He was interred in Taos following his death in 1868.

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