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Claims of racism kill bid to name part of Lake Tahoe after Mark Twain

Tribe says author objected to naming the lake "Tahoe," used racial slurs to describe Native Americans.
By Matt Bradwell   |   May 19, 2014 at 10:22 AM   |   Comments

LAKE TAHOE, Nev., May 19 (UPI) -- A cove in Lake Tahoe will not be named for American writer Mark Twain, after the Washoe Tribe complained the caucasian author was prejudiced against Native Americans.

"Samuel Clemens had racist views on the native people of this country and has captured those views in his literature," wrote Darrel Cruz, head of the Washoe Tribe cultural resource department, in a letter to the Nevada State Board on Geographic Affairs. "Therefore, we cannot support the notion of giving a place name in Lake Tahoe to Samuel Clemens."

Twain, whose real name was Samuel Clemens, objected to naming the lake "Tahoe," which comes from the Washoe word for lake.

"People say that Tahoe means 'Silver Lake' -- 'Limpid Water' -- 'Falling Leaf,'' Twain is credited as saying. "Bosh! It means grasshopper soup, the favorite dish of the digger tribe -- and of the Pi-utes as well." The word "digger" is considered a racial slur by Native Americans.

Board member Robert Stewart, who first introduced the plan to name the cove for Mark Twain, fully supports tabling his initial efforts.

"I have a great deal of respect for the Washoe Tribe. And if their cultural committee is unhappy with naming the cove for Mark Twain, I'm not going to fight them," Stewart said. "We need to show sensitivity to the tribe."

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