MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A group seeking to ensure that the name for Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis stays as-is claim that the lake wasn’t even named after the slavery supporter John C. Calhoun.
The group Save Lake Calhoun, instead, argued that articles from the archives of the Minneapolis Tribune — which was the name for the paper before a merger with the Minneapolis Star — indicate that the lake was named after a “Lieutenant Calhoun” with the U.S. Army.
The push to change the lake’s name to its Dakota name, Bde Maka Ska, has been working its way through civic bodies. Most recently, the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners voted 4-3 in favor of changing the lake’s name.
It’s a long process to change the popular Minneapolis lake’s official name, though. The next step for the name change will be a decision from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. After that, the decision will go to federal authorities.
Save Lake Calhoun’s advertisement says that Minnesotans have been “duped into an inflammatory and false narrative about Lake Calhoun,” and that “Lake Calhoun is the first victim of what will be a tsunami of extremist name-change advocacy.”
John C. Calhoun was a southern statesman and helped establish Fort Snelling. He died more than 160 years ago.
The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board responded to WCCO’s request for comment with the following:
Charles Loring was wrong is his 1890s statement that Lake Calhoun was not named after statesman John C. Calhoun but was named after Lieutenant Calhoun of the U. S. Army. In 1820 and 1823, the lake was already known as Calhoun and William Keating attributed that name to the Sec. of War, John C. Calhoun. The history of the lake name was researched and extensively discussed by the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board in 2015 and 2017, and the following information and much more was shared during the September 2, 2015 Board meeting and is available online:
In 1823, William Keating, a professor of mineralogy and chemistry at the University of Pennsylvania, served as the geologist on an expedition commanded by Major Stephen H. Long. In 1824, Keating compiled his notes and those of Major Long, James E. Colhoun, and Thomas Say in the Narrative of an Expedition to the Sources of St. Peter’s River, Lake Winnepeek, Lake of the Woods, etc., etc. performed in the year 1823, by order of the Hon. J.C. Calhoun, Secretary of War, under the command of Stephen H. Long, Major U.S.T.E. On page 303, he includes this observation on the region around Fort Snelling: “A body of water, which is not represented upon any map that we know of, has been discovered in this vicinity within a few years, and has received the name of Lake Calhoun, in honour of the Secretary of War. Its dimensions are small.”
The Park Board is unaware of any U.S. Army records of personnel at Fort Snelling that include a Lt. Calhoun in that early-1820s time period.