West Calhoun residents surveyed on name change

The West Calhoun Neighborhood Council (WCNC) has announced the results of a survey gauging residents’ opinions on changing the neighborhood’s name.

WCNC board chair Allan Campbell said the results of the survey, which only received 65 responses, didn’t provide a clear path forward for the neighborhood.

“Since it was mixed, we just keep talking,” he said.

Activists mobilized to change the name of Lake Calhoun to Bde Maka Ska in January 2018, saying it was wrong to honor John Calhoun, a defender of slavery who helped orchestrate exploitive treaties separating Native Americans from their land. The Calhoun Area Residents Action Group (CARAG) changed its name to South Uptown in September 2018, and the East Calhoun Community Organization is currently contemplating a name change.

Of the West Calhoun residents surveyed, 35 favored keeping the neighborhood’s name the same and 28 supported a change (2 residents had no opinion).

Those who supported changing the name  had no clear preference between West Maka Ska or West Lake (to match the name of the future light rail station). Another suggestion was Minikahda, which means “by the side of the water” in Dakota, and is the name of a West Calhoun club founded on Dakota land in 1898.

“I don’t know how valid the statistics are because it’s such a small sampling of the percentage of the neighborhood,” board member Victoria Hoshal said. “I guess it’s just an indicator.”

The organization’s board members say they hope to gather more community input before making a decision, and have so far mostly refrained from expressing personal preferences about the organization’s name.

Residents in attendance at WCNC’s annual meeting on May 14, however, were happy to share their views.

“There’s a lot of hoo-ha going on about this name change,” West Calhoun resident Tim Bailey said. “If you want to change it from Calhoun because of who he was, that’s fine, but if you want to change it to Bde Maka Ska and say you’re doing that to honor Native American heritage, that’s just talk.”

Board member Richard Logan replied that while it’s important to “honor indigenous values” more broadly, “every community has the right to weigh in on what it would like to be called.”

“I think it’s a very small thing to change the name to its original Lakota name, but it’s still worth doing,” resident Peter Kellogg said. “I certainly think we need to do much, much more.”