Kit Carson

Encyclopedia Article


Christopher "Kit" Carson was one of the most famous Western explorers during the 1800s. In the 1840s, he traveled as a guide with John C. Fremont through the Great Basin, and Fremont's written accounts were what made Carson both popular and notorious as an adventurer.

In the 1850s, Carson became an Indian agent for New Mexico and in the 1860s worked as a lieutenant colonel in the 1st New Mexico Volunteers. Even though Carson was often thought of as a friend of the Indians (he lived with and married into the Arapaho and Cheyenne tribes), he might be most infamously known for the war he waged against the Navajo in the early 1860s, forcing them to relocate away from their traditional homeland (Dinétah) and in to the Bosque Redondo, a 40-square mile reservation on the Texas/New Mexico border, along with the Apache. At first, the Navajo resisted the move, and Carson subsequently terrorized the tribe by burning crops, destroying homes, and killing livestock, eventually forcing the Navajo to march hundreds of miles to the new reservation in what became known as the Long Walk.

Photo Credit: 

"Colonel Kit Carson, 1864," photograph by unknown. Palace of the Governors Photo Archives (007151). Palace of the Governors Photo Archives, New Mexico History Museum, Santa Fe.

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