MN Supreme Court: DNR has power to change Lake Calhoun name to Bde Maka Ska

Minneapolis Park and Recreation board started process to rename streets.
The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that the Department of Natural Resources has the authority to change the name of Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis to Bde Maka Ska.
Matt Sepic | MPR

Updated: 3 p.m. | Posted: 12:15 p.m.

The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that the Department of Natural Resources has the authority to change the name of Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis to Bde Maka Ska.

The 5-2 decision comes two years after the Department of Natural Resources approved the change to the name it has been called by indigenous residents since before the state was founded in 1858.

Writing for the majority, Justice David Lillehaug rejected the argument that only the Legislature had the power to make the name change official.

In her dissenting opinion, Chief Justice Lorie Gildea said, "This decision should upset and unsettle every Minnesotan and most especially those who live in a community with a lake."

She added that the court's decision has given too much power to the DNR to change the names of lakes for any or no reason.

In a statement, the DNR said it’s pleased with the court’s ruling.

“The DNR’s job was to evaluate whether the [Hennepin County] Board followed procedural requirements and whether Bde Maka Ska met state naming conventions. We concluded “yes” on both counts and approved the renaming,” a spokesperson for the department said. “With today’s decision from the Minnesota Supreme Court, “under Minnesota law, the body of water that was Lake Calhoun is now Bde Maka Ska.”

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison also praised the court decision.

“In the 21st century, our values are different: Minnesotans no longer celebrate slavery and genocide,” said Ellison. “The people of Minneapolis and the DNR commissioner chose to remove Calhoun’s name from the lake to alleviate the pain of that history and celebrate instead the dignity of those who originally named the lake.”

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