The Dakota name or names that were displaced when surveyors renamed Lake Calhoun for the federal secretary of war probably originated with a predecessor tribe, a representative of that tribe said recently.
Lance Foster, the historic preservation officer for the Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska, based near White Cloud, Neb., said his tribe and the Dakota who displaced them in Minnesota had closely related languages.
Historians of the pre-settlement era said based on oral histories that the Dakota likely displaced the Iowa from the Minnesota River area by about 1700, after a series of three major battles. Foster said that's before missionaries recorded names, as they did when the Dakota lived at the lake.
Some have suggested that the Iowa tribe should have naming rights in the current debate over whether and how to rename Calhoun. The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board recently added the Dakota Bde Maka Ska (White Earth Lake) to signs at the lake, although it lacks the power to unilaterally change the name.
"I think it would be a good thing for us to work with our Dakota brothers on a good name," said Foster, who holds a position created in 2012. He said he's not aware of a specific Iowa name for Calhoun, but that he's focused mostly on tribal sites within the state of Iowa, and is only now planning to work more closely with Minnesota agencies.
But he said that Dakota names often are close to names used by the Iowa (pronounced Ioway.) As an example, the Iowa term Mahato (Blue Earth) became the Dakota Makato, which led to the English Mankato.
In general, native names for geographic features described characteristics or resources rather than honor individuals, Foster said. "We like the idea of any geographic feature returning to the name that the indigenous peoples gave it originally," he said.
Others claim that Dakota used the term Mde Med'oza (Lake of the Loons), and one missionary recorded the Dakota name as meaning "the inland lake."
(Wakinyan LaPointe burned sage Monday at a sunrise ceremony at Thomas Beach at Lake Calhoun or Bde Maka Ska on a day the city observes as Indigenous Peoples Day.)