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Court of Appeals rules Lake Calhoun-Bde Maka Ska name change illegal

It says the DNR commissioner didn't have the power to change the name.

The renaming of Lake Calhoun to Bde Maka Ska was illegal and should revert to its previous name.

That's the finding of the Minnesota Court of Appeals on Monday, which found that former Minnesota DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr didn't have the power to change the name of Minneapolis' biggest lake.

In the opinion posted Monday, it says "the commissioner of natural resources lacks authority to change a lake name which has existed for 40 years," finding in favor of the group that objected to the name-change, called "Save Lake Calhoun."

Landwehr ordered the lake should revert to Bde Maka Ska – its Native American name – in January 2018, with the lake having previously been named after John C. Calhoun, whose past support of slavery prompted a renaming campaign in Minneapolis.

The efforts to change the lake's name had originated in the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board, which found that it didn't have the authority to change the name on its own, and nor did the Hennepin County Attorney's Office.

But the Court of Appeals found that Landwehr didn't have the authority either, despite the name change being recognized by the federal government and the U.S. Board of Geographic Names.

The finding by a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals was unanimous that the name change was illegal.

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They found that under state law, only the Minnesota Legislature has the power to change the names of bodies of water in instances where its existing name has been in place for more than 40 years.

The DNR commissioner doesn't have that authority, as it is the legislature that confers powers to the DNR.

The "Save Lake Calhoun" movement had presented a petition on behalf of 318 residents living around the southwest Minneapolis lake, calling for the name of Lake Calhoun to be retained.

You can read the opinion here. It's not clear yet whether this decision will be subject to further challenge.

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