Minnesota Changes Lake Calhoun to Original Dakota Name, Bde Maka Ska

By Sameer Rao Jan 19, 2018

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources announced yesterday (January 18) that it will rename Minneapolis’ biggest lake with the name it was given by the state’s indigenous Dakota people. 

Department Commissioner Tom Landwehr told The Star-Tribune that the body of water formerly known as Lake Calhoun will now officially be Bde Maka Ska. The paper adds that the name means "White Earth Lake" in the Dakota language. 

The lake’s previous name came from John Calhoun, an antebellum U.S. politician who passionately defended the enslavement of African Americans while representing South Carolina in the Senate. The Star-Tribune says that the name goes back 200 years to when surveyors for Calhoun, then the Secretary of War, arrived to build Fort Snelling just outside of what would become Minneapolis. 

The department approved the name change after the governing board for Hennepin County (of which Minneapolis is the county seat) and the city’s Park and Recreation Board approved similar resolutions to change the name. The U.S. Board of Geographic names will have to approve the change for use on federal documents, but Landwehr says the state will keep the name regardless.