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Kit Carson at top the Pioneer Monument on the morning of June 26, 2020, a few hours before the City of Denver removed the American frontiersman's likeness from the top of the monument as part of an ongoing conversation about monuments, race and history in the city. (Eric Lubbers, The Colorado Sun)

A statue of American frontiersman Kit Carson that topped Pioneer Monument in downtown Denver was removed by city crews Friday afternoon.

It is the third art installation memorializing a controversial figure to be removed from public spaces in Denver in two days. 

“Denver Parks and Recreation has removed the Kit Carson statue within the Pioneer Monument Fountain,” city spokeswoman Cyndi Karvanski said. “This was done proactively for safety and as a precautionary measure to keep it from being torn down similar to the sculpture at Civic Center park last night.”

Protesters tore down a Civil War statue at the Capitol early Thursday morning and a sculpture in Civic Center dedicated to Christopher Columbus Thursday night. 

“Kit Carson was as bad and as evil as any Confederate general to Black people,” said Glenn Morris, leadership council member for the American Indian Movement of Colorado. 

The group has been pushing for the removal of the statue for decades, Morris said. On Thursday evening, they sent a letter to Denver City Council and Mayor Michael Hancock asking the city to remove the Kit Carson statue, as well as a plaque on a statue dedicated to Christopher Columbus.

AIM plans a gathering at Pioneer Memorial, at the corner of Colfax and Broadway, at 6 p.m. Friday.

MORE: Statue honoring Christopher Columbus rolled off its pedestal in Denver’s Civic Center

Morris said racism against Black Americans and oppression of Native Americans were intertwined.

“There are two original sins in the United States,” said Morris, who is a professor of political science at the University of Colorado, Denver. He directs the Fourth World Center for the Study of Indigenous Law and Politics at CU. “One is the genocide against native people and the dispossession of Indigenous peoples territories and then in the enslavement of Africans.” 

The 109th anniversary of the unveiling of the Pioneer Monument was this week. In their letter to city officials, the Native American group calls Kit Carson an “Indian murderer” and says the monument erases “the existence and histories of indigenous peoples and nations.”

The pioneer monument — marking the conquest of white settlers in the West — was originally designed with a Native American man on top. When a model of the monument was unveiled in 1906, Denver residents took great offense to the Native American at its apex and demanded he be replaced with Carson. Sculptor Frederick MacMonnies made a special trip from Paris to accommodate the request.

City crews on Friday also removed the pedestal in Civic Center that held the sculpture dedicated to Christopher Columbus. 

Protesters toppled that statue late Thursday night, hours after the Native American leaders sent their letter to city leaders. 

“While we didn’t organize that effort to take down that statue, we’re not going to condemn it,” Morris said.

Evan Ochsner

The Colorado Sun | Twitter: @EvanOchsner