Bde Maka Ska

A ruling from the State of Minnesota Court of Appeals regarding the lake that had been known at Bde Maka Ska has come down in favor of the plaintiff, who wants the name to revert back to Lake Calhoun.

The court ruled the Minnesota DNR did not have authority to change the name, thus, the name is reverted back to Lake Calhoun, named for former vice president, John Calhoun. Calhoun was a leader in the pro-slavery movement and was the first to design a plan for removing Native-Americans to lands west of the Mississippi; a brutal process that later came to be known as the Trail of Tears.

Following growing public sentiment to change the name, DNR removed Calhoun's name from Minneapolis' largest lake, naming it Bde Maka Ska -- a Dakota name meaning lake white earth or lake white bank. Minneapolis Parks and Recreation, who maintains the lake, added Bde Maka Ska to park signs in 2015, with the official change occurring in January of 2018.

In the decision to court ruled, “Appellant presents a sufficient claim for ongoing exercise of power by the DNR and so the district court erred in denying the writ of quo warranto pursuant to Minn. R. Civ. P.12.02(e). We have addressed the merits of the DNR commissioner’s purported authority to change lake names existing for 40 years and found no authority permits this action. Accordingly, we reverse and remand for entry of judgment in favor of Save Lake Calhoun.”

Within a day of the ruling Sen. Jeff Hayden (DFL-62), announced the proposal of the Calhoun Amendment. The amendment, which failed on a divided voice vote, would allow DNR to change the names of geographical features with the name Calhoun to another name in consultation with county boards.

“It’s no secret John Calhoun’s thoughts on slavery and segregation were appalling. Naming anything after a man like that is a decision people made years ago when people like me weren’t sitting in any positions like this,” said Hayden. “We have an opportunity now to move away from some of the dark spots in our history and acknowledge the place names that existed for generations before Calhoun ever set foot in Minnesota. I’m disappointed Senate Republicans chose to stick by a man like Calhoun instead of taking the opportunity to grow.”


Attorney General Keith Ellison released a statement on May 1 saying the state will appeal the most recent ruling.  

“Our client, the Department of Natural Resources, has decided to appeal the Bde Maka Ska ruling, and the Attorney General’s Office is proud to support them,” said Ellison in the statement. “I believe this ruling raises enough challenges to the ability of a state agency to carry out its lawful duties that the Supreme Court should hear this appeal. I also believe Minnesotans need a reliable mechanism for renaming places that evoke or celebrate racist parts of our past. We need a way to reflect our values today and pass along the state we want our children to inherit tomorrow.”

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