East Calhoun considers a name change

East Calhoun community members
East Calhoun community members gathered to discuss a potential name change to the neighborhood on May 9. Photos by Andrew Hazzard

What’s in a name?

That’s the question residents of the neighborhood currently known as ECCO, or the East Calhoun Community Organization, are wrestling with this summer.

In the wake of Lake Calhoun being redubbed Bde Maka Ska, its original Dakota name meaning Lake White Earth, the neighborhood is one of several entities deciding whether to change its title, too.

At the first of three public meetings on the potential name change, held on May 9, the 10 ECCO residents who spoke all favored changing the name of the neighborhood.

“That name causes harm to so many people,” said resident SooJin Pate, who believes the neighborhood should honor the wishes of Native and African-American communities that want the name changed.

She said the current name undermines the neighborhood’s progressive values.

Neighborhood resident Kathi Wright said she is in favor of changing the name and added people often tell her “it will always be Calhoun to me” and complain they can’t pronounce the Dakota name.

“It’s really not that hard,” she said, adding people learn how to say new names all the time.

Some residents at the meeting suggested it is intimidating for people who do want to keep the name to speak up.

Should ECCO change its name, it would become the second Minneapolis neighborhood to do so since the lake was renamed. The Calhoun Area Residents Action Group (CARAG) officially became South Uptown in September 2018. West Calhoun is in the early stages of deciding if they will change their name, too.

SooJin Pate
SooJin Pate, who has lived in ECCO since 1990, said she favors changing the organization’s name.

The process

The neighborhood began a name review process by forming a committee in December. The committee, which has about 13 members, has met seven times. Mostly, they’ve been trying to work out a way to engage their neighborhoods on a potential name change. The committee put together a scripted presentation of neighborhood history, lake history and the name change process. Several outreach methods were used to bring people to the meetings.

“I do think that people like to feel they have a say,” Lara Norkus-Crampton, a member of the name review committee said.

What that name could be is still a long way from being determined. The neighborhood will hold a vote this summer asking residents a simple question: Do you want to change the name, yes or no? If the ayes have it, a process for renaming the community will begin.

Still, a couple names were suggested on May 9, such as East Maka Ska.

Tim Crampton suggested keeping the acronym ECCO but changing the name to Environmentally Concerned Citizens Organization.

“People do know this place as ECCO,” he said.

Others seemed enthusiastic about the chance to get rid of the acronym.

name change discussion

‘Our choice’

In April, the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled the Department of Natural Resources lacked the authority to change the name of the lake, reverting the name to Lake Calhoun, at least in the eye of the state. The DNR has requested the state Supreme Court review the case and Democrats in the Legislature have made attempts to change the name back. The U.S. Board on Geographic Names labels the lake Bde Maka Ska at the federal level, and at the local level the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board has said it doesn’t plan on changing signage.

But the ongoing legal process shouldn’t impact the neighborhood’s decision to change the name or not, board members said.

“This is our choice, and it’s up to all of us as residents if we want to keep our name or change it,” said Terry Harris, a member of the name review committee.