MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The official name of a popular Minneapolis lake remains Bde Maka Ska – at least on the federal level.
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.
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.
The DNR issued a statement 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.
On Tuesday, Lou Yost, the Executive Secretary of the U.S. Board on Geographic Names confirmed that.
“As per Public Law 80-242 the U.S. Board on Geographic Names (BGN) decides the official name for use by the Departments and Agencies of the Federal Government, and as you may know State legislation (or court ruling) is not binding on the Federal Government. The name at the Federal level will remain Bde Maka Ska as was approved at the BGN’s June 21, 2018 meeting,” Yost said.
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.
“You have a whole crew of folks that are co-authoring this bill, not just Minneapolis but suburban members throughout our caucus,” Rep. Rick Hansen, chair of the House Environmental Committee, said.
Now the question is what happens in the Republican-controlled Minnesota Senate. One Democratic senator from Minneapolis, Jeff Hayden, tried an end-around by getting a Senate Finance Committee to vote to allow the DNR to change the name back to Bde Maka Ska. That proposal was voted down.
Republican Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka said he doesn’t like the amendment proposal: “I prefer Lake Calhoun, that is what I mentioned.”
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.