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Klamath residents to consider renaming Kit Carson Park

Klamath Falls City Hall building.
Ian Poellet
Klamath Falls city hall

A city park in Klamath Falls could soon have a new name, if residents decide to confront the history of Kit Carson, a Western frontiersman known for the expulsion and killing of local Native Americans.

Residents of the Klamath Falls area have until Dec. 1 at 5 p.m. to weigh in on a proposal to rename the park. The renaming was one of a handful of recommendations from Klamath Falls’ short-lived Equity Task Force, a group set up in 2020 to address equity issues with the city council.

In 1846, Carson and fellow explorer John C. Fremont killed at least 14 tribal members at a Klamath village and many members of the Northern California Wintu tribe. In the mid 1860s he led the forced removal of the Navajo tribe in an expulsion known as “the long walk.”

“He was known for scouting and he was known for killing and we shouldn’t accept that any more. We shouldn’t accept making heroes out of villains,” says Monica Yellowowl, an enrolled member of the Pit River tribe and resident of Klamath County. “I think that we have enough knowledge at our fingertips to get the whole story.”

The Klamath Falls survey asks whether the city should rename the park and solicits comments from the public. The city’s parks advisory board will make recommendations to the city council based on public comments received over the past month. They can be submitted in person, by phone, by email and via the online survey.

“Their goal is to get as much feedback from our community as a whole as possible,” says Kristina Mainwaring, a public information officer with the city of Klamath Falls.

She says the survey comments will be considered by the parks board during their Dec. 9 meeting.

Kit Carson Park and nearby Dead Indian Memorial Road, which runs between Jackson and Klamath counties, are offensive and represent a denial of the historical record, Yellowowl says, adding that ignoring that history affects indigenous people on a daily basis.

“I want a park where my nieces and nephews can go to and they can play and it’s never a reminder about conquering,” she says.

Erik Neumann is JPR's news director. He earned a master's degree from the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and joined JPR as a reporter in 2019 after working at NPR member station KUER in Salt Lake City.