Denver's Pioneer Monument and a Legacy of Controversy



Very interesting article, thanks. I would never have thought there was a proposal for a statue with a Native American warrior, at the time it appears to have been pretty radical. This also shows the role that past politics has played in the establishment of supposedly "timeless" memorials. Good job.


interesting article, thank you.
I am working on my family history and have learned to watch my word choice so that I am honoring the native people who lived here before us. My ancestors came to Colorado in a covered wagon in the 1860s and homesteaded. I discovered where their land was and was excited to then learn about thir one-room school house, and what they farmed, and where exactly they might have built their log home etc. Though this family story is fun to discover and to share with my relatives, I've chosen to say things like, "we were the first Europeans to live in the area". And though there is nothing to indicate my ancestors were directly involved in forcing out native people, still - I have learned to at least give a nod to their place in my family's story. It's important, as you state, "to contextualize our story". Thank you for pointing that out.


"Rethinking" OK, but "Re-understanding" is not a word in any dictionary that I find including the OED. It connotes accepting the popular or politically correct position without logic or examination.

Re-understanding may not yet be in the OED, but it has been used in published texts elsewhere. We see it as the obvious result of rethinking, regardless of politics: a new or renewed understanding. Thank you for reading!


Even as a 4th generation Denverite, I did not know that the the figure atop the monument was Kit Carson. I assumed it was a generic pioneer marking the end of the Smokey Hill trail and pointing the way to the gold- and silver-rich mountains to the west. Carson was an extraordinary figure but, knowing his part in the removal of Navajos from their reservation to Bosque Redondo, I understand Native American's resentment of him.

Thanks for reading, Bill! Western History (and history generally) is full of complex figures who did both good and ill to and for those around them. Kit Carson is just a very obvious example. His story is nuanced and complex, and compassion is understanding the view of those who were and are hurt by his actions.


It's good that we all "give a nod" to the Native tribes that once roamed and relied on the land of our ancestors by acknowledging them through our word choices, and for our library and museum to state that they are built on top of land that was once inhabited by Native Americans. But I think we must remember that the tribes that still exist suffer in very real ways today because of "manifest destiny" and all it's consequences. Acknowledging that some tribes once lived here, although a start, does nothing to alleviate their suffering. What are some real and tangible ways we can help repair some of the painful results of our hegemony? I include myself in the "we" and "our".

Great questions, BJ! Like all cases of historical and systemic racism, helping Native American communities is not just about learning that history. There are tangible ways to help communities today. Listen by reading indigenous authors, support monetarily by finding organizations that donate specifically to Native causes, purchase directly from indigenous artists and manufacturers. These are just a few ways to help people now. Thanks for reading and for your interest.

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