Debate over Lake Calhoun name change rages on

The debate over whether to rename Lake Calhoun has raged for years, but a number of speakers in favor of the change at a Hennepin County Board Meeting Tuesday were intent on reigniting the fight. 

"Restoring the name offers a deeper and truer history of the lake for the general public, acknowledging the thousands of years of indigenous habitation in this place before European settlers arrived," Minneapolis resident Tracy Nordstrom said at the listening session.

Earlier this year, the Minneapolis Park Board voted to rename the lake honoring former Vice President John C. Calhoun, who was responsible for building Fort Snelling, because he was an outspoken defender of slavery.

The Park Board added its preferred replacement name, Bde Maka Ska--which means "White Earth Lake" in Dakota--to signs around the lake.

It is also adding artwork to the lake that reflects the Native Americans who used to occupy the region.

"The streets of this landscape honor men like Hennepin, Nicollet and even make up figures such as Hiawatha," Dakota descendant Kate Beane said. "But the Dakota people have rarely been included in naming practices, even when our own language is used." 

Along with Bde Maka Ska and Lake Maka Ska, there's also a petition to change the name to Lake Wellstone--after U.S. Senator Paul Wellstone, who died in a plane crash 15 years ago.

He's buried in nearby Lakewood Cemetery--but not everyone wants a change.

"You can rename the lake, but the name is not going be eradicated," Arlene Freed said. "It will continue to be Calhoun parkway, Calhoun Beach Club." 

The County Board didn't take any action on the issue, but is expected to before the end of the year.

If the name change does get the green light, it would go to the Department of Natural Resources, then the Federal Goverment for final approval.