Nevada Cove Won't Be Named for 'Racist' Mark Twain

Washoe tribe objects to plan for Lake Tahoe cove
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted May 19, 2014 1:39 PM CDT
Nevada Cove Won't Be Named for 'Racist' Mark Twain
Samuel Longhorne Clemens, better known under his pen name, Mark Twain, is seen in this undated photo.   (AP Photo)

The Nevada State Board on Geographic Names was considering naming a Lake Tahoe cove for Mark Twain—until it heard from the Washoe Tribe, whose ancestral homeland includes the lake, that Twain held "racist views" about Native Americans. As the head of the tribe's cultural resource department pointed out in a letter to the board, Twain once referred to the Washoe as "the digger tribe," a derogatory name used for tribes that dug roots to eat. Twain also opposed naming the lake Tahoe, which came from the Washoe word for lake, "da ow."

The board voted this week to indefinitely table the request to name the cove for Samuel Clemens, Twain's real name, the AP reports. The board member behind it says it's unlikely to resurface, out of respect for the tribe. He initially proposed it because he believes Twain camped at the cove in 1861—and accidentally started a wildfire while preparing to cook dinner. Twain did once write a letter objecting to the treatment of tribes in Arizona and New Mexico, but an English professor says there's little evidence he overcame his anti-Native American prejudices. "When it comes to African Americans, he was ahead of his time substantially," the professor says. "When it comes to Native Americans, his record is not very good." (Read more Mark Twain stories.)

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