Minneapolis park board votes to stand behind Bde Maka Ska

Casting a unanimous vote Wednesday night to maintain the name restoration of Bde Maka Ska, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation board is making their stance clear.

“I think the lawsuit was just a slap in the face to a lot of people who do not think the legacy of John C. Calhoun represents the values of the people of Minnesota,” said Brad Bourn, Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board President.

After an appeals court ruled the DNR didn’t have the authority to rename Lake Calhoun, at Wednesday’s meeting, Bourn announced he has a list of 82 bodies of water that had a name for longer than 40 years that were previously changed by the DNR commissioner. 

“I think this is something the appeals court just got wrong,” he said.

As a result, on Tuesday, House Democrats voted to rename Lake Calhoun as Bde Maka Ska, leading the Park Board to reinforce their efforts.

“John C. Calhoun was not a nice guy,” said Londel French, Commissioner at Large. “He was a racist, he was a person that was not only a racist, he lobbied the rest of the country that white folks should be the superior race and people who look like me should be in chains and work in manual labor for the rest of their life for free.”

While Commissioner Jono Cowgill admits history isn’t learned by naming a lake, but feels the name carries an important weight.

“But we do signify what we value in our history by what we put on our signs and on our buildings and how we connect to our lakes and our natural spaces,” said Cowgill.

It’s why the other board members also plan to advance the effort to the parkways and other public spaces that implicitly maintain systemic oppression.

“Black folks and native folks are some of the only two groups that have to walk down streets, go to schools, work in buildings that priced and killed them, murdered their ancestors,” said French. “We’re better than that here in Minnesota.”