DNR taking Bde Maka Ska name fight to MN Supreme Court

The new signs include the lake's Dakota name
Signs at the lake were changed to include the lake's Dakota name, Bde Maka Ska, in October 2015.
Peter Cox | MPR News

The Department of Natural Resources said Wednesday it will appeal a court decision that rejected its authority to change the name of Lake Calhoun to Bde Maka Ska.

The DNR's move comes two days after the Minnesota Court of Appeals renewed the controversy over the renaming of the Minneapolis lake, ruling the DNR lacked the power to OK the name change.

Lake Calhoun was returned to Bde Maka Ska, its Native name, in 2018.

Backers argued that the lake's then-namesake, John C. Calhoun, was unworthy of the honor. A South Carolina native and powerful figure in early 19th century American politics, Calhoun was committed to maintaining slavery in the United States. He was also the architect of the forced removal of Native Americans from their homelands in the South.

Create a More Connected Minnesota

MPR News is your trusted resource for the news you need. With your support, MPR News brings accessible, courageous journalism and authentic conversation to everyone - free of paywalls and barriers. Your gift makes a difference.

The organization Save Lake Calhoun, which supports the name Lake Calhoun, has argued that the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, Hennepin County, and the Department of Natural Resources did not have the authority to change the name.

The DNR had called the entire question moot because the U.S. Board of Geographic Names already changed the name of the lake to Bde Maka Ska, and a Ramsey County district court judge had agreed.

On Monday, however, the state Appeals Court reinstated the challenge, saying that a 40-year window to change the lake's name had closed and that the change could only be made by the state Legislature.

The president of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board this week vowed the lake "will continue to be Bde Maka Ska for generations to come."

The DNR in a statement Wednesday said it was "very concerned" about the implications of the Appeals Court ruling on the process to name the state's waters.

The agency said it will submit its petition for review to the Minnesota Supreme Court by the end of May.