Council Member Cam Gordon (right) and Hennepin County Commissioners Marion Greene (left) and Peter McLaughlin (center) pose around a new Bde Maka Ska sign with name change advocates Syd Beane and daughters Kate Beane and Carly Bad Heart Bull. Photo by Eric Best

Park Board restores Bde Maka Ska name

Lake Calhoun has a new name, but it isn’t new. The name Bde Maka Ska, the lake’s original Dakota name, dates back hundreds of years.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has updated the State Register following the Hennepin County Board’s recent vote to change the name back to Bde Maka Ska (pronounced “b-day ma-KHA skah”), or “White Earth Lake.” The U.S. Board of Geographic Names will need to make it official on the federal level.

Descendants of Dakota Chief Mahpiya Wicasta, also known as Cloud Man, gathered last month with local political leaders and community members to formally recognize the name restoration with new signage around the lake.

Kate Beane, a descendant and advocate for the name restoration, said in a statement that language is essential to the Dakota people.

“To have our name for this lake that we love be acknowledged and respected is important. We are entering a new era for Dakota people in our Mni Sota homeland, and our grandparents’ contributions to this place and their legacy of resiliency and generosity will live on,” she said.

As part of the ceremony, a crew with the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board change the signs to only recognize the Dakota name. Previously the park’s entrance signs featured both names.

The board has tried to tackle the name restoration for several years. Former Superintendent Jayne Miller called the move an “important gesture of reconciliation.”

“We deeply appreciate everyone who took time to help educate people on the issue and explain its importance,” she said.

Park Board President Brad Bourn, who represents part of Bde Maka Ska, said the previous name did not represent the organization’s values. Calhoun, a former vice president, was a proponent of slavery.

“This is my happiest moment in the last eight years on the Minneapolis Park Board,” he said.