The debate over historically violent monuments and titles has once again become inflamed in Minnesota. The lake previously named Lake Calhoun was changed, after years of advocacy, to Bde Maka Ska as of last year. Now, after a court ruling, the lake has returned to its former name of Calhoun, bringing up a protest and re-igniting the calls to give rightful namesake to the land.
John C. Calhoun, the lake’s namesake, firmly called for and orchestrated the displacement of natives under the Monroe administration; he was also an avid supporter of slavery. This violent history of exclusion and oppression has brought many activists to the forefront of the debate, given that the lake is on former Dakota land that was stolen by the United States Government.
The case was ruled by the Minnesota Court of Appeals on Monday, April 29, and stated that the Department of Natural Resources, or the DNR, did not have the proper authority to change the name as it did last year. Giving the DNR the power to change the lake’s name would enable them to alter any other waterway titles they like, which the court stated was an abuse of power.
This decision came after calls from a pro-Calhoun group called Save Lake Calhoun believed the changing of the name was a power grab by the DNR. The DNR argued that it was not an abuse of power because the U.S. Board on Geographic Names had officially made the change as of last year.
The outcry of criticism from the park board as well as many Minnesota residents cites this decision as one step forward, but two steps back. The signs installed around the lake titling it ‘Bde Maka Ska’ will still remain, but the state of Minnesota has ruled the name back to ‘Calhoun’, challenging the progress that many have fought to make.
“While it saddens me that 318 property ‘owners’ on stolen Dakota land around Bde Maka Ska calling themselves ‘Save Lake Calhoun’ have prevailed at this stage, I know that we’re standing on the right side of history and that its arc bends towards justice. In the meantime, as president of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, I have no intention of spending any public resources honoring Vice President John C. Calhoun’s blood-soaked legacy of systemic violence against all our communities,” Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board President Brad Bourn said, according to CBS Minnesota.
The DNR has 30 days to make a petition to get the case reviewed by the Supreme Court and continue fighting for a just title. However, it’s clear that the hard work many have invested into the changing of the name is not over. This sentiment of frustration that many feel seems to be something that is constantly repeating itself; all on stolen land with a violent past that is not being accredited their proper place or historical retelling.