Workers installed new placards on the roads ringing Bde Maka Ska/Lake Calhoun Thursday morning the day after the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board voted to rename four parkways with the original Dakota name.
Park Board commissioners, who voted 7-2 to make the change, said it was a small step to undo the presence of the lake’s namesake, John C. Calhoun — the politician who advocated for slavery and the removal of American Indians from their lands in the early 19th century — and teach people about the land’s indigenous history.
Carly Bad Heart Bull, a descendant of a village leader on the lake and a leading advocate for the Dakota name, praised the decision during Wednesday’s Park Board meeting.
“My Dakota son and other young people of color and indigenous youth deserve to see themselves being recognized and celebrated in this city,” she told commissioners. “Our indigenous and African-American youth should not have to walk down the streets with names that celebrate people who pushed for the subjugation of and violence against the bodies of their ancestors. None of us should have to.”
As a result of Wednesday’s vote, West Calhoun Boulevard, Calhoun Drive and East and West Lake Calhoun parkways will now be named West Bde Maka Ska Boulevard, Bde Maka Ska Drive and East and West Bde Maka Ska parkways.
Crews installed new placards for East and West Bde Mka Ska Parkways on Thursday morning, and green street signs will be changed by the city at a later date.
The change is the latest in a yearslong back-and-forth surrounding the name of one of Minneapolis’ most popular lakes. The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) restored the name to Bde Maka Ska, meaning “White Earth Lake,” in 2018, a decision currently under review by the Minnesota Supreme Court.
Most of the vocal opposition against the name change came from residents who live on the four parkways.
Lynette Davis, who lives on West Lake Calhoun Parkway and sits on the board of the West Calhoun Neighborhood Council, said Wednesday that the name is difficult to pronounce for a majority of people and that it would take a lot of time to change mailing information, including in mortgages and passports.
“I’m not looking forward to that,” she said. “I do understand the lake name change. I wish it wasn’t ‘Bde.’ ”
Commissioners Meg Forney and Steffanie Musich voted against changing the parkways, with Forney requesting that the word “Bde” be dropped from the name.
On Wednesday, Park Board President Brad Bourn said scrubbing Calhoun’s name from the roads was “the least we can do, and it’s such a small ask.”
“I understand that there’s an impact for folks, but it’s just such a small impact faced with the questions that we’re asking,” he said. “No, we won’t solve the world’s ills through taking this step, but how can we not at this point?”
The Park Board’s decision to rename the roads surrounding the lake comes as the official name of the lake itself remains in limbo. After the state Court of Appeals ruled that a former DNR commissioner lacked the authority to rename the lake, the agency appealed to the Minnesota Supreme Court. The case is now in the briefing stage.
Staff writer Katie Galioto contributed to this report.