DENVER, COLORADO – In the scenic Sangre de Cristo range of Colorado, the 14,171-foot Kit Carson Mountain stands as a symbol of both natural beauty and historical controversy. Also known by climbers as “Kit Carson Peak”, it is the 23rd tallest peak in the state. And now, it might be the next peak to receive a new name to avoid honoring historical figures cuplable for genocide.
The Colorado Geographic Naming Advisory Board is currently grappling with a significant decision: renaming this towering peak. The board, in its latest meeting, decided against renaming it as “Frustum Peak,” a proposal that has been in consideration since 2020.
The name “Frustum Peak,” rooted in geometric terminology, was initially suggested due to its historical connection to the mountain, named after the controversial frontiersman Christopher “Kit” Houston Carson. However, Richard Cimino, a member of the board, raised concerns about the suitability of a geometric term for a fourteener, stressing the importance of a thoughtful and lasting choice.
The process of renaming Colorado landmarks has recently followed a predictable pattern: a proposal is made, followed by a flurry of alternative suggestions. This is evident in the case of Kit Carson Mountain, with recent proposals including “Lawrence Peak” and “Tabeguache-Ute Peak.” More name proposals are expected with the decline to support ‘Frustum Peak.’
The Town of Crestone also filed an application to rename the mountain as “Mount Crestone,” citing visibility concerns with other nearby peaks named Crestone. However, naming a third peak in the area with the name ‘Crestone’ concerned some that it will cause confusion during search and rescue calls and missions.
The surge of potential names mirrors the recent experience with Mount Evans, as noted by Jennifer Runyon of the U.S. Board on Geographic Names. Richard Trotter, a local resident, proposed “Lawrence Peak” in honor of John Lawrence, a white settler who played a pivotal role in the local community. However, this proposal lacks the support of local politicians, which is typically favored by the board.
The board is also considering the wider implications of a name change. Kit Carson, a figure with a complex legacy involving close work with Native tribes but also actions leading to the suffering of Navajo, Apache, Kiowa, and Comanche tribes, is a name that appears on twelve natural features across various states. Changing the name of Kit Carson Mountain could trigger a nationwide reevaluation of these names.
WHY CHANGE THE NAME?
In the 1860s, Kit Carson was commissioned an officer in the US military and took a lead role in the roundup of the Apache and Navajo tribes to remove them to reservations. During the Long Walk and removal period, Carson forced more than 10,000 native people to remove reservations, and more than 2,500 people died before they were allowed to return to their homeland.
The discussion over the renaming of Kit Carson Mountain reflects a broader dialogue on how we honor our landscapes and history. As the debate continues, the Colorado Geographic Naming Advisory Board is committed to finding a name that respects the past, acknowledges local opinions, and stands the test of time.