DNR to appeal judges' ruling on Bde Maka Ska–Calhoun name change

The Court of Appeals has ruled the name change illegal.
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The Minnesota DNR has announced it will appeal the ruling by the Court of Appeals that the change in name of Lake Calhoun to Bde Maka Ska was illegal.

In a statement Wednesday, DNR Commissioner Sarah Strommen said the DNR is "very concerned with the implications of the Appeals Court’s ruling for our ability to work with county boards to reflect community standards in how the state’s waters are named."

The DNR will submit a petition to review this week's decision to the Minnesota Supreme Court by May 29.

Former DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr approved the name change to Bde Maka Ska, following representations made by the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board, with the name change also approved by Hennepin County.

But a three-judge panel ruled this week that the DNR Commissioner does not have the power under state law to rename Minnesota bodies of waters if they have had their current name for longer than 40 years.

Lake Calhoun was named after former Vice President John C. Calhoun, whose history of slavery support prompted calls to revert the lake to its original Dakota name.

"We have long worked with counties in eliminating offensive or derogatory names," Strommen said.

"We are also concerned with another aspect of the Appeals Court’s decision. Specifically, it opens the door for people to challenge a range of final agency decisions well after established appeals periods. This presents the potential for considerable disruption in the normal order of government decision making."

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While the Court of Appeals said the lake's name shouldn't have been changed, the federal government said on Tuesday that the lake will continue to be referred to as Bde Maka Ska on its maps.

The U.S. Geographic Board on Geographic Names confirmed as such to WCCO, saying that a state-level ruling is not binding on the federal government.

"The name at the Federal level will remain Bde Maka Ska as was approved at the BGN’s June 21, 2018 meeting," Executive Secretary Ned Yost told the TV station.

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