Social Justice Served on One of MN’s Most Popular Lakes

Renaming Process Clears First Hurdle to Implement Dakota Name

MINNEAPOLIS- The Minneapolis Park Board voted unanimously to rename Lake Calhoun to the lake’s traditional Dakota name of Bde Maka Ska.

“There are all kinds of names throughout Minnesota that have Dakota words. In fact the name of the state is a Dakota word, so it’s not unheard of to have Dakota place names throughout this entire state,” University of Minnesota professor Wayne Bendickson told MPR. “The name [Calhoun] needs to go in my opinion because we already have a name for the lake. It’s Bde Maka Ska.”

Park workers added Bde Maka Ska signs to the Lake Calhoun signs back in 2015. Since then public opinion shifted in favor of having just one name for the lake, the Dakota name. Yale’s decision to change the name of one of their residential halls named after Vice President Calhoun further swayed perceptions on the name change.

However, not everyone seems to be on board with the name change. Arlene Freed, a co-founder of the group Park Watch, stated at a board meeting that parks names have monetary value through branding and that any renaming could negatively impact that value. Others, such as Timmie Beverly, have argued that the name change could set a dangerous precedent to change the names of many other parks, lakes, and street names. Others like Anita Tabb, felt that the change “doesn’t really address problems of equity.”

Indeed, change to the name of the lake is coming at a time when less than five people in Minnesota can speak the Dakota language fluently.

Even though the change has been passed by the Minneapolis Park board, there are still many more hurdles that must be jumped before the name is fully changed. The name change will have to go through the Hennepin County Board, then the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, with final approval coming from U.S. Board of Geographic Names.

Henry Carras