Save Lake Calhoun fighting name change with legal fund, Star Tribune ad

- A group making a last-ditch effort keep the name of Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis is launching a legal defense fund with assertions that “we Minnesotans have been duped into an inflammatory and false narrative about Lake Calhoun.”

Save Lake Calhoun took out a half-page ad in Thursday’s edition of the Star Tribune, citing a report in the newspaper from 1890 that Lake Calhoun was not named after statesman John C. Calhoun, but rather “Lt. Calhoun of the U.S. Army.” A Minneapolis Park Board spokesperson told Fox 9 the claims by Save Lake Calhoun are simply “inaccurate.”

Statement from Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board

Charles Loring was wrong is his 1890s statement that Lake Calhoun was not named after statesman John C. Calhoun but was named after Lieutenant Calhoun of the U. S. Army. In 1820 and 1823, the lake was already known as Calhoun and William Keating attributed that name to the Sec. of War, John C. Calhoun. The history of the lake name was researched and extensively discussed by the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board in 2015 and 2017, and the following information and much more was shared during the September 2, 2015 Board meeting and is available online:

In 1823, William Keating, a professor of mineralogy and chemistry at the University of Pennsylvania, served as the geologist on an expedition commanded by Major Stephen H. Long. In 1824, Keating compiled his notes and those of Major Long, James E. Colhoun, and Thomas Say in the Narrative of an Expedition to the Sources of St. Peter’s River, Lake Winnepeek, Lake of the Woods, etc., etc. performed in the year 1823, by order of the Hon. J.C. Calhoun, Secretary of War, under the command of Stephen H. Long, Major U.S.T.E. On page 303, he includes this observation on the region around Fort Snelling: “A body of water, which is not represented upon any map that we know of, has been discovered in this vicinity within a few years, and has received the name of Lake Calhoun, in honour of the Secretary of War. Its dimensions are small.”

The Park Board is unaware of any U.S. Army records of personnel at Fort Snelling that include a Lt. Calhoun in that early-1820s time period.

Name change gets approval

The Hennepin County Board voted Nov. 28 to change the name of Lake Calhoun to its Dakota name, Bde Maka Ska, which means "White Earth Lake." Signs around the lake have already been updated to include its original Dakota name.

Efforts to rename the lake started two years ago. Supporters want to distance the lake from its namesake, Vice President John C. Calhoun. Calhoun helped create Fort Snelling, but he was also a strong supporter of slavery and was the author of the Indian Removal Act.

The Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board unanimously agreed to use the lake's original name earlier this year. The Hennepin County Board approved the renaming of the lake at their meeting Tuesday by a vote of 4-3 after hearing public comments earlier this fall.

“Lake Calhoun is the first victim of what will be a tsunami of extremist name-change advocacy,” Save Lake Calhoun wrote in the Star Tribune ad.

Next steps

Now, the proposal will go to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. The U.S. Board of Geographic Names will also need to sign off on the change before it can become official.

Save Lake Calhoun’s ad is asking the public to write to the Minnesota DNR to oppose the change and to “remember the Hennepin County commissioners who ignored and disrespected the majority opinion.”

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