A couple years ago there was a petition to change the name of Lake Calhoun back to its original Dakota name Mde Maka Ska, which in modern Dakota is spelled Bde Maka Ska (BeDAY -Mah-KAH-Ska). It was named that until the 16th century or so, and it meant Lake White Earth. But after the petition was passed and they changed the name back to its indigenous name, there was a huge uproar about how we can’t change history, and the lake is named Lake Calhoun.
The name change was originally brought on because people thought it was inappropriate to have a lake named after a man who was a slave owner, and pro-slavery. Recently it was decided that they would change the name back to Lake Calhoun, which started new debates on the name change.
Many people in the greater Minneapolis area are split two ways:
- They believe that we shouldn’t honor slave owners and colonialism, and instead we should honor the Indigenous people who were pushed from their land.
- Its hard to say Bde Maka Ska, and they like how Lake Calhoun sounds, and its all they’ve known it as, so why question it?
As an indigenous woman(I may not be Dakota, but I am Ojibwe from the north) I have seen what colonialism has done to my people, and many non-natives would like for us to move on from the past. But its not like white people showed up in Minnesota and asked for the land, and we surely didn’t suggest that they take it from us and force us to live on reservations, all to have our lakes named after racist white men.
Another hilarious aspect that non-natives express is how its hard to say the name Bde Maka Ska, but they sure as heck can say Anoka, Minnetonka, Wayzata, and Shakopee… all names in the Dakota language, Why is it so hard for them to google how to say this name?
Like, soooo… you can say Hermoine Granger, but you cant say BeDAY MahKAH Ska? Okay, cool cool cool cool cool.
All I am saying is its not like you have to apologize to Indigenous people right now for something that your racist ancestors did, but you could at least be on the right side of history and stand with the people who your great, great, great grandparents stole land from. A really easy way to do this is to not protest when there’s a request to change a name of a lake back to what it once was.