By Esme Murphy

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The debate over what to call one of Minnesota’s most popular lakes moves to the State Capitol.

On Monday, the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources did not have the authority to rename Lake Calhoun to Bde Maka Ska, its original Native American name.

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The court ruled the name of the lake is Lake Calhoun because the DNR, in renaming the lake, ignored a Minnesota law saying only the legislature can rename a lake that has had a specific name for 40 years.

Members of the DFL in the legislature are responding to the decision, and there is already an amendment to the House omnibus environmental financing bill, which is DFL-controlled, to change the name officially to Bde Maka Ska.

WCCO’s Esme Murphy stopped by the clerk’s office to pick up the amendment, and there are 19 co-sponsors listed, and it appears most of them are members of the DFL.

This amendment will be discussed on the House Floor in the next few hours as part of that larger environmental bill. The original author of that amendment is Rep. Jamie Becker-Finn of Roseville, who grew up on the Leech Lake Indian Reservation.

“My family members were instrumental in changing the name of lakes in the ’90s. This is an ongoing issue of making sure that our names and places of things are representative of our communities and the true history of Minnesota,” Becker-Finn said,

This renaming amendment is likely to pass the Minnesota House Tuesday afternoon. Now the question is what happens in the Senate.

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Whatever Republican Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka says, this renaming measure in the legislature will live to see another day, because the Senate has already passed their environmental funding bill. If it passes the house it will end up in a conference committee likely next week.

Another potential avenue: the DNR can appeal the ruling to the Minnesota Supreme Court; they would have 30 days to do that, and there’s no word yet from the DNR or Attorney General Keith Ellison if there are plans for that.

Also, the DNR issued a statement on Monday saying, whatever happens, for federal purposes the name has already been officially changed to Bde Maka Ska and will remain so on a federal level.

The lake is part of the Grand Rounds National Scenic Byway, and a popular place to walk, fish and sail. The Minneapolis lake was declared Bde Maka Ska – the Dakota words meaning “white earth lake” – last summer, amid a contentious political battle.

In January, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources announced their decision to favor the change of name, after the push to change the lake’s name to its Dakota name worked its way down the long path of civic bodies.

Supporters of the name change say former vice president John Calhoun was a staunch supporter of slavery and helped establish Fort Snelling. The lake had been called Lake Calhoun since the mid-1800s.

Supporters of Bde Maka Ska say the name brings people together. They say they were blindsided by Monday’s court decision, but they believe the fight isn’t over.

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“I think more of us want to see this recognized, officially recognized, as Bde Maka Ska,” Carly Bad Heart Bull said. “We spent nearly three years working on the name restoration and in those three years what we found is we had overwhelming support.”

Esme Murphy