Local lake name sparks controversy

Department of Natural Resources seeks appeal


Grace Farley

Rising controversy about the official name of Lake Bde Maka Ska or Lake Calhoun divides the city.

Ben Sanford

Large controversy surrounds the name of Bde Maka Ska, with some thinking it should go back to its name as of late 2017, Lake Calhoun. The President of the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board, Brad Bourn, said the lake is an important part of Minnesota, sparking many opinions.

“I think that everyone who is authentically engaging in the conversation is authentically engaging in the conversation for good reasons, regardless of what side of that conversation they fall on,” Bourn said.

Sophomore Danny Walsh said he understands why people support the lake being named Calhoun, but doesn’t think that Minnesota should uphold John C. Calhoun’s values.

“I see both sides of the argument. I think businesses in the area would want to keep the name (as Calhoun). I do side more with the people that are thinking, you know, he’s definitely a racist. He was in favor of slavery and he didn’t really have any other main attributions to him in history other than that,” Walsh said.

In January of 2018, the commissioner of the Department of Natural (DNR) Resources officially renamed Lake Calhoun to Bde Maka Ska. On April 29, 2019, the Minnesota Court of Appeals reversed this ruling, stating that the commissioner of the DNR did not have the authority to change the name. The DNR is now appealing that reversal, and Bourn said he is hopeful that the Minnesota Court of Appeals will have a satisfactory solution.

“There’s a resolution that successfully passed the Democratic Control House, and it stalled out in the Republican Control Senate, and understand how that process works now,” Bourn said. “Basically (the Republican Control Senate and the Democratic Control House) have to work out language so that the bill is the same. I think folks are optimistic that the legislature will be able to resolve a solution.”

The Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board (MPRB) and the federal government has said they plan to continue to name the lake Bde Maka Ska, according to Bourn.

“The federally recognized name of the lake is Bde Maka Ska, and the federal government does have final say, and they have said that they don’t have any intention to change,” Bourn said.

Sophomore Maya Lee said she understands that there are complications involved with changing the name of lake, she thinks the pros outway the cons.

I think it’s important because it has to do with our history and how we are normalizing other peoples cultures”

— Alise Moore

“I think it’ll be a difficult change to stop saying Calhoun because so many businesses are named Calhoun and stuff, and it’s just sort of common nature to call it that. So I think it will be a difficult change but it’s a good change.” Lee said.

Despite all of the issues with the name of the lake, the MPRB holds full jurisdiction over how the lake is represented on signs. Bourn said the Parks Board plans to keep the Bde Maka Ska signage around the lake.

“The signage that we have around the lake, the Minneapolis Park Board pays for exclusively, so we have no intention to take those signs down. We have no obligation to sign that lake as anything else,” Bourn said. “There are thousands of lakes around Minnesota that have no signage, so we won’t be funding any signage that calls the lake anything other than it’s indigenous name.”

Junior Alise Moore said the name of the lake is a statement of how Minnesota views the Dakota tribe along with other groups of people in the state.

“I think it’s important because it has to do with our history and how we are normalizing other peoples cultures,” Moore said. “I feel like everybody has a right to give their opinion.”

Lee said she has become more educated about the history of the name through this controversy.

“I think it should (remain Bde Maka Ska) because now that we brought a bunch of attention to it, I didn’t know much about it beforehand, but now I have more knowledge about it.” Lee said.

Bourn said he urges students to seek a stronger education on the subject. Bourn and other MPRB members contact information is available at the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board website.