Skip to main content

Lake Calhoun name remains, but original Dakota name will be added

  • Author:
  • Updated:

After a summer-long debate over whether to rename Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis, the city's Park Board decided Wednesday evening to give it two names.

Some "guerrilla artists" didn't wait for the board's meeting, and covered the Lake Calhoun signs overnight with others that said "Lake Mde Maka Ska," a nod to the lake's Dakota Indian name.

Crews took down the signs Wednesday morning.

At the meeting, board members debated whether they had the authority to change the name of the lake on their own, whether they should ask state officials to do so, or whether they wanted to at all.

In the end, the panel decided to list both names on the signs around the lake, the Star Tribune reports. The vote was 6-0 with one abstention.

The Dakota version will be added to all the signage around the lake. It will be "Bde Maka Ska," which is the preferred spelling. It means "White Earth Lake" in Dakota.

The Parks and Recreation Board took up the issue after calls were made to scrap "Calhoun" in the wake of the killing of nine black people in Charleston, South Carolina, in June.

That's because the lake was named after John C. Calhoun, a U.S. senator from South Carolina and former vice president who ordered the construction of what came to be Fort Snelling, but who was also known to be a notorious supporter of slavery.

Changing the name is more difficult

The Park Board had been told it has no power under state law to change the name, though it can make recommendations to the state Department of Natural Resources and state legislators.

Neither the DNR commissioner nor the Legislature has the power to change the name of a lake when the name has existed for more than 40 years. The Lake Calhoun name dates back to the 1830s, the Star Tribune notes.

Legal experts say the Legislature could change the law to give public bodies such as the parks board the authority to change the name of Minnesota lakes. Any name change would need to be agreed to by the U.S. Geographic Board.

Next Up


Ringo Starr's late cancellation of MN show was because he has COVID-19

The Beatles drummer was due to perform in Minnesota Sunday.

Screen Shot 2022-10-03 at 4.32.58 PM

Fire destroys cafe, two other business properties in downtown Fairfax

A former pizza joint was also destroyed, while two other properties were damaged.

Hennepin County Medical Center, HCMC

Woman dies from injuries in crash that killed her husband, another man

The couple in their 80s died in the collision near Lake Lillian.

CPAP masks

2 Park Nicollet employees convicted of embezzling $500,000

The pair worked at a CPAP clinic in St. Louis Park.


No Jingle Ball this year? Twin Cities left off iHeartRadio holiday tour

The annual touring event usually visits the Xcel Energy Center.

Target store

Target gives first look at some of its Deal Days discounts

The Minneapolis retailer is holding its Deal Days event earlier than ever, in an attempt to drive sales after a turbulent year.

Screen Shot 2022-10-03 at 11.03.12 AM

Man dies after crashing truck into western Wisconsin lake

The victim was unable to make it to shore despite being able to get out of his truck.

ATV, all-terrain vehicle

Sheriff: Man who didn't return to campsite died in ATV crash

It happened at the Foothills State Forest and Spider Lake ATV Recreation Area

Richard Liu, aka Liu Qiangdong

Chinese billionaire settles lawsuit over alleged rape in Minneapolis

The tech billionaire was accused of sexually assaulting a University of Minnesota student in 2018.

US Navy Flickr - COVID hospital PPE nurse

Frontline worker payments: Over a million Minnesotans to get $487.45

Gov. Tim Walz says the payments will start going out on Wednesday.


Ed Sheeran to bring North America stadium tour to Minneapolis

It's the second show announced for the Vikings stadium in 2023.


Lake Calhoun signs vandalized after the name change vote

Someone doesn't agree with the decision to rename Lake Calhoun.

Lake Calhoun signs vandalized after the name change vote

Someone doesn't agree with the decision to rename Lake Calhoun.