West Calhoun’s new name aims to recognize Dakota heritage

City staff said the proposed West Maka Ska conservation district did not have enough significance to merit approval. File photo

And then there were none.

The West Calhoun neighborhood has voted to change its name to West Maka Ska, becoming the last of three Southwest Minneapolis neighborhoods around Bde Maka Ska to disassociate itself from the legacy of John C. Calhoun — and the first Minneapolis neighborhood to embrace the lake’s Dakota name.

The West Calhoun Neighborhood Council (WCNC) voted 8-0 on July 14 to request the name be changed after hearing from nearly two dozen residents, none of whom opposed the new name, said board president Allan Campbell. 

“Those who commented thought recognizing the Dakota heritage was a positive,” he said.

The Minneapolis Park Board voted to change the lake’s name in 2017, following a push from activists who said it was wrong to honor Calhoun, a defender of slavery who helped orchestrate exploitive treaties separating Native Americans from their land. Changes to street names and some business names followed. 

In 2018, the Calhoun Area Residents Action Group (CARAG) adopted the name South Uptown. And late last year, East Calhoun residents voted to change the name of the East Calhoun Community Organization to just “ECCO” — the group’s acronym stripped of its meaning.

Following George Floyd’s killing, a number of large private institutions — including Calhoun Square, the Calhoun Beach Club and the Calhoun Towers apartments — have announced plans to rebrand

Campbell said that West Calhoun has been getting more emails recommending a name change since Floyd’s death but that the name change had already been on the agenda for a May annual meeting, which was canceled amid the pandemic. 

The WCNC had discussed a name change a number of times in the past few years. In May 2019, the results of a survey were released that showed 35 of 65 residents polled supported keeping the West Calhoun name, though Campbell said homeowners were overrepresented in the survey and it wasn’t “representative of the neighborhood.”

“We decided we couldn’t keep putting off [a vote] just because of COVID,” he said.