A group of local activists protested at Kit Carson Park on Wednesday, placing a banner that read "Genocidal murderer" over the park's signage.

The protest was organized by Klamath Tribal member and local activist, Joey Gentry — a member of the now disbanded City of Klamath Falls Equity Task Force — and a vocal proponent of changing the name of Kit Carson Park.

Gentry said she hoped the sign would shock people, and lead them to start learning more about the violence committed against Indigenous people by individuals like Kit Carson. 

"A common response from people in the community is that 'it happened in the past' so we should just 'get over it,' Gentry said. "It's not in the past when, today, we still have a park named after a genocidal murderer tasked with exterminating our people. We are still here." 

"To celebrate and honor a genocidal murderer, is to uphold white supremacy," Gentry said. 

Monica Yellowowl participated in the protest and said that the park protest meant continuing to stand on the front lines for historical truth.

“I think the larger community doesn’t understand the founding of America, this sort of cherry picking of history so people can sleep well at night,” Yellowowl said. “That’s not our version. Our version is the nightmare version.”

Yellowowl said Carson being honored creates a ripple effect of historical trauma for Indigenous people. The sign, she said, will hopefully shock and bring attention to those realities.

“When I look around in my community and I see high death rates — early death rates are high — suicide, and alcoholism. I see families torn apart. All of that is the impacts and effects of decisions that were made by the United States of America and people like Kit Carson who were dispatched into our territories.”

Yellowowl made a point to mention that nontribal people were in attendance at the park for the protest.

“They showed up today because they’ve done their homework. And they don’t want to walk through any more years of their lives being blinded,” she said. “They want the whole truth. Give us the whole historical record so we can decide.”

Following the protest, Klamath Falls mayor Carol Westfall made a brief statement.

“I think it’s unfortunate that someone would put a sign up like that,” Westfall said. “That is not appropriate. I’m hoping for the best, just working through this with a community effort. I’m hoping for a positive outcome in bringing the community together."

Gentry said the point of the protest was to prompt, remind and motivate people to respond to the city's Parks and Recreation Board survey which was released to the public for input in early November. Responses must be submitted by Wednesday, Dec. 1. 

Westfall said the board will review the survey results and submit a proposal to city council on whether or not it believes the park's name should be changed. The council will have final say on the matter and Westfall said she anticipates a proposal from the board sometime after the holidays. 

— Reporter Joe Siess can be reached at (541) 885-4481 or jsiess@heraldandnews.com. Follow him on Twitter @jomsiess