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Federal government now recognizes Minneapolis lake as Bde Maka Ska

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Bde Maka Ska
People walk and bike the trails around Bde Maka Ska, formerly known as Lake Calhoun, in Minneapolis on Oct. 17, 2017.
Evan Frost | MPR News 2017

The federal government now recognizes Bde Maka Ska as the official name for what used to be known as Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis.

The U.S. Board on Geographic Names approved the name at its meeting last month. That follows county and state approval of the name. 

Bde Maka Ska is now federally (as well as state) recognized! pic.twitter.com/0tLla1nZkN

— Kate Beane (@Ahdipiwin) July 13, 2018

Bde Maka Ska means "White Earth Lake" or "White Banks Lake" — a nod to the light-colored sand of its beaches. It's pronounced beh-DAY' mah-KAH' skah.

The name was used by the Dakota people for the lake southwest of downtown Minneapolis before federal surveyors renamed it in the 1800s for John Calhoun, then the secretary of war who later served as vice president.

Calhoun, who also served as a U.S. representative and senator from South Carolina, and as U.S. secretary of state, was an architect of the Indian Removal Act and defended slavery as a "positive good" that benefited slaves and slave owners alike. While he died in 1850, his views on slavery and states' rights remained influential when Southern states seceded in 1860-61, leading to the Civil War.

A person and their dog rest on a stand up paddle board.
A person and their dog rest on a stand up paddle board in the middle of Bde Maka Ska in Minneapolis on Oct. 17, 2017.
Evan Frost | MPR News 2017

Given those views, supporters of the name change said it was inappropriate to honor Calhoun with the lake name.

The Hennepin County Board and the city's park board backed the change to Bde Maka Ska in 2017 after more than two years of public input. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources approved the change in January.

Opponents of the change pursued legal action earlier this year to have it overturned, saying it's an unnecessary rewrite of history and claiming it will hurt businesses that use the Calhoun name.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.