CCU News / Opinion

The Bad Name Building

Are you a fan of Kit Carson? Are you glad CCU has a residence hall named after him, just to the right of Anschutz as you drive onto campus? Well, I don’t. I (Will Klumpenhower, First of his Name, Animas High School Class of 2018,) do not like Kit Carson. Not a bit, actually. And I don’t think his name should be displayed so prominently on our campus. 

Who was Kit Carson?

Here’s something that may surprise you: Kit Carson was a fairly unremarkable dude. He was just your average trapper and frontiersman who somehow, through dime novels and contemporary legend, sprang forth into a fabled giant of Western history. He later became an officer in the U.S. Army, but even that was not so unusual for mountain men of his era. However, there is one notable thing Carson got up to: he was the primary orchestrator of the Long Walk of the Navajo. 

(You, unless you’re from New Mexico: “What is the Long Walk? I haven’t heard of it because the American public school system thought it would be more important for me to learn about the Hawley-Smoot Tariff.”)

In the 1860s, while the Civil War was raging in the east, the Union began tidying up the western territories while no one was paying attention. This was done very compassionately by forcing the indigenous people from their homes, stripping them of their traditional ways of life, and generally making their lives hell. In 1862, the U.S. Army, led by none other than Kit Carson, launched a scorched-earth campaign on the Navajo. Homes were burned, livestock were slaughtered and crops were destroyed. Then Carson rounded up approximately 9,000 captives and forcefully marched them 400 miles across the desert to their new home: internment camps. Many people died along the way, and those who didn’t were constantly on the verge of starvation. This forceful relocation of the Navajo is known as the Long Walk, and it lasted for six years – from 1862-1868. 

Also, Carson sold some of the Navajo into slavery. This seems like a good time to remind you that the Emancipation Proclamation was signed in 1863. 

So, Kit Carson – not exactly God’s gift to the world. Frankly, I don’t know how he even got a mountain named after him, because his other exploits aren’t even that spectacular. I would list some, but there’s not much to list. The only thing he really has going for him in terms of legacy is that he apparently had a really cool aura, so aside from NEARLY WIPING OUT AN ENTIRE INDIGENOUS TRIBE he was pretty neat, I guess. 

I don’t think that “looking cool in the saddle” is enough reason to name a building after this dude. With that in mind, here’s some …

Alternate Naming Ideas

Kit Carson residence hall is technically named after Kit Carson Peak (a 14er in the Sangre de Cristo Range) and not the man himself. All of the “Peaks” buildings (Snowmass, La Plata, and Red Cloud) are named after 14ers. Luckily, this means we don’t have to rely on anything as drab as creativity: we can poach a name from a mountain. 

There are around 50 remaining 14ers in Colorado to name our building after. Here are my favorites:

All the other Peaks buildings are named after mountains that have rugged, outdoorsy names, so that’s what I based my list on. Each of these suggestions sound very outdoorsy, and may indeed be in consideration for a new line of mid-size SUVs. If I had to pick one, I’d choose Little Bear. It’s wildernessy in kind of a cute way. Besides, some of the Kit Carson signage already has a bear on it:

So that’s my pitch. Stop naming a prominent CCU stairwell after a guy who sucks and name it after a cute bear instead. Hell, name it Yogi if you want. As long as it isn’t named after the Navajo equivalent of Hitler.

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