As businesses and community organizations have moved quickly in recent weeks to remove “Calhoun” from their names, some may be thinking about a name that connects with Bde Maka Ska. It has always been the water that has drawn people to the area — centuries of Indigenous people and then, in the last 200 years, predominately white people.
It’s important for those entities that may be considering referencing Bde Maka Ska in their new name to be mindful that any use of Dakota language should be done respectfully. This means consultation with Dakota speakers, who should be compensated for their services.
Having served on the committee reviewing the name of the former East Calhoun neigh- borhood, we faced the question of whether “East Bde Maka Ska” or “East Maka Ska” would be more appropriate. Fortunately, a committee member had connections to the Dakota community so we could hear their counsel. With their perspectives in mind, we determined that “East Bde Maka Ska” was the more appropriate way to reference the lake in a potential new neighborhood name. (After decades of referencing the lake in the neighbor- hood name, the neighborhood ultimately voted for a name that did not reference the lake.)
Joe Bendickson, a Dakota speaker, talked about the importance of including “Bde” in an interview on TPT’s “Almanac” that aired May 17, 2017. The interviewer asked about shortening the name to “Lake Maka Ska” since “bde” translates to “lake,” and Bendickson replied, “The Dakota language is very descriptive. When you say the words, you are describing a scene. … The Dakota language describes the landscape, so I think it’s impor- tant we preserve the whole name.”
To assume that “Bde Maka Ska” would follow the same place name norms as English would be to Anglicize the Dakota language. Removing “Calhoun” in organization names has been about recognition of the hurt and harm caused by John C. Calhoun to Black and Indigenous communities. Let’s ensure we are not inflicting new hurt and harm in the renaming process; instead, let’s elevate and honor the Dakota people and their language when using the lake name.