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bears the name of a man who, at the time of its rechristening, had not yet ascended to the White House, was therefore not yet a martyr, and had never set foot in Alaska. Why then was an Ohio politician tapped for this high honor? Because many Alaskans opposed the gold standard that the Republican McKinley embraced, and William A. Dickey, who coined and publicized the new name, approved of the future president’s fiscal conservatism. “The original naming,” one commentator points out, “was little more than a joke.” But it has had serious consequences. “Replacing Native American names with those of European Americans is a form of cultural imperialism,” Loewen remarks, a practice that “declares the new rulers of the landscape can afford to ignore what Native names mean and connote.” Doing so also provides a greater sense of control and ownership, much as “New England” ties that region to an old country thousands of miles away. Another form of imported ancestry more distant by place and time was the Greco-Roman craze that swept the Empire State in the post-Revolutionary era. Establishing towns such as Troy, Homer, Ithaca, Carthage, and Syracuse further distinguished these New York settlements from their former “owners,” whether indigenous or British. Renaming, so much a part of the westering impulse, is no longer officially sanctioned: in 1990, Loewen reports, the U.S. Board on Geographic Names adopted a strategy whereby priority would be given to names “derived from American Indian, Inuit, and Polynesian languages.” In time, Denali will be reborn. Other habits will take longer to die. Like the deep resistance to acknowledging the sexual preferences of famous people whose public accomplishments warrant acclaim. Willa Cather, for one: in his account of her hometown, Red Cloud, Nebraska \(a chapter wryly entitled, “No Lesbians on the and the 190 historical sites that make up the “Willa Cather Thematic District,” and interviews the director of the Willa Cather Pioneer Memorial, to discover that nowhere is it mentioned that the novelist had long-standing relationships with women. In one sense this lacuna might not matter \(“Knowing that Aaron Copland was gay does not contribute much to understanding or appreciating his music,” arship suggests the same is not true for her literary output. Moreover, in a larger sense this absence matters a great deal: “If Americans knew that some of the historical figures the landscape celebrates were lesbian or gay, public discourse might improve” a political consequence Loewen urges on. So does Martina Navratilova: “It is time that schools told the truth… so that young people will realize that those of us who have been lesbian and gay are part of 4″, k 4 CV: k: r re 4 ; ‘1 marked abo cials, they s we’ve had more history!” But Texas hasn’t. Moreover, like other states, Texas refrains from recognizing events that might embarrass or offend local communities. To place so many historical markers within one state while still avoiding all manner of important but taboo topics, Texas resorts to such minutiae as this plaque on a main street in downtown Galveston: MAGALE BUILDING A fire … in 1869 destroyed an earlier structure at this site. John F. Magale house his wholesale liquor business…. From 1889 until the late 1960s, this building was occupied by J.F. Smith and Brother, a well-known paint and hardware store. Not all these ubiquitous markers are official. Two different private companies now sell mock markers. They incorporate the official top part of Texas’s round markers, changing “Historical Commission” to “Histerical Committee”; the rs a clt arch 2, 1836, er independence from exic Le fhb Comanches roamed the prairie, Rangers protected frontier settlements, and this building was not here yet.” I suppose it’s wrong to encourage these things, but I learned about as much history from it as from the Magale Building markers. Another reads: “On April 21, 1836, Texas troops under Sam Houston won independence, as they shouted out, ‘Remember the Alamo.’ When we tried that here, the neighbors complained about the noise.” Reporter John Kelso interviewed John Van Horn, one of the entrepreneurs, who said, “We think the Historical Commission is just a big joke” perhaps because of markers like “Magale Building.” “We just feel like people need a chance to take history into their own hands, if they want to. Everybody feels like their house needs a little extra attention. And people can designate their house any way they want to this way.” The Texas Historical Commission isn’t amused; they referred the matter to the attorney general’s office. The official state markers might look as .marked the *tied, none of which is currently commemorated on the landscape: Reconstruction violence \(not one site The notorious Brownsville race riot of 1906. The hundreds of lynchings in Texas, including the killing of at least eighteen African Americans in Slocum on July 2930, 1910. Sweatt v. Painter, the first successful school desegregation lawsuit in modern Texas history and an important precursor in 1950 of Brown v. Board of Education. The first woman juror in Texas, in 1954. The founding of La Raza Unida, the first major Chicano political party, in Crystal City in 1969. These are all matters of statewide if not national importance. Texas is adding about 300 markers a year ten times as many as other states with active marker programs. Surely it can treat more important events than “a well-known paint and hardware store.” Excerpt from Lies Across America by James W. Loewe!? 20 THE TEXAS OBSERVER DECEMBER 24, 1999