The call to change the name of Lake Calhoun to Bde Maka Ska has been joined by all 15 Minneapolis state legislators.
On Wednesday, the group of representatives and senators sent a letter to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources urging Commissioner Tom Landwehr to “take all necessary official action” to change the name. It’s the next step in the potential renaming of Minneapolis’ largest and most-popular lake after the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners voted 4–3 in November to restore the lake’s Dakota name, usually translated as “white earth lake.”
In the letter to the DNR, the Minneapolis legislators write that the lake’s current name “was chosen to dignify a man that represents a very undignified part of our American experience.”
The name Calhoun was chosen for the lake by white surveyors in the 1820s. It honored John C. Calhoun, a South Carolina politician who was an outspoken supporter of slavery and played a key role in developing the Indian Removal Act while serving as U.S. secretary of war. A series of frontier outposts established under his leadership included Fort Snelling.
“The history of Calhoun as a political or historical figure is not honored or dignified by Minnesotans now, nor should it ever have been,” the legislators’ letter states.
The legislators predict that the name change “will start conversations and educational experiences about our history” and “grow a deeper appreciation for the vibrant Native American Indian communities that still exist in Minneapolis and throughout the state.”
The November vote by the Hennepin County Board was a significant step in the years-long effort to change the name. In May, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board approved a master plan for the lake that endorsed changing its name to Bde Maka Ska, a signs around the lake currently include both names. Those votes were preceded by a years-long effort on the part of local activists to rename the lake.
The DNR doesn’t have the final say on the matter, which will still require federal approval.