Don’t like Bde Maka Ska? Tough

The name, Bde Maka Ska, has been associated with Lake Calhoun long enough now that the idea of not having a Minneapolis lake honoring the architect of Native American genocide shouldn’t be that shocking to the city’s residents who have any appreciation at all for history.

MPR’s Matt Sepic reports today that the majority of people who spoke at last night’s Hennepin County Board meeting supported changing the name of the lake, an indication of just how far the idea has come from a few years ago when the idea first gained a little traction.

Only about a half dozen opposed it for reasons that make little sense.

“There are a lot of ways to show support for the Indian community,” Linden Hills resident Tom Austin said. But changing the name “is a poke in the eye of over 90 percent of the people who live in the lakes area.”

Another speaker said businesses and other parts of the neighborhood are “branded” with the Calhoun name and changing it would be costly and confusing, ignoring the fact that they’re under no obligation to change anything.

At best, perhaps, there might be an argument that the name change could be inconvenient for people who are simply used to the Calhoun name. But this problem barely registers a blip on the inconvenience scale from zero to the Trail of Tears.

Should the name change be approved, it’s unlikely anything other than Bde Maka Ska would be chosen, despite the last-minute attempt by persons unknown to propose Lake Wellstone, in honor of the late senator. Historically, perhaps, it would be symbolic on its own for a piece of white history to swoop in at the last minute and steal an honor for Native American history.

It also would be the last thing Paul Wellstone would ever want to happen.

The ongoing question, of course, brings out the worst in us, just as every discussion that threatens white culture does. Today’s comments on the Star Tribune story on the hearing are, again, a testament to their inability to make a cogent and logical argument for honoring slavery and genocide.

Underlying any invocation of “politically correct” is fear that whites are losing a grip on their dominance of Minnesota culture and historical perspective.


  • wjc

    //Underlying any invocation of “politically correct” is fear that whites are losing a grip on their dominance of Minnesota culture and historical perspective.


    Absolutely spot-on. Change the name.

  • Rob

    Outstanding post, Bob C.

  • Robert Moffitt

    If it provides another opportunity for new news anchors from other states to trip all over how to pronounce it, I’m all for it.

  • Jonathan Foster

    “we stole their land so successfully that there aren’t any of them left around here to support a new name”. Oh goodness Tom Austin do you listen to yourself?

  • Jamison S.

    “Underlying any invocation of “politically correct” is fear that whites are losing a grip on their dominance of Minnesota culture and historical perspective.


    Excellently put.

  • Jerry

    “Underlying any invocation of “politically correct” is fear that whites are losing a grip on their dominance of Minnesota culture and historical perspective.”

    Or, you know, an opinion that what is happening is largely the result of a political climate in which all dissenting views are preemptively and summarily dismissed as racist.

    • Jerry

      It depends, are they racist? They often are.

    • True. Because they quite often are.

      The hurt feelings on the part of the “I’m not a racist, but” crowd are your brain’s way of telling you that maybe you should think again about what you believe and why you believe it.

      • Jerry

        It’s not about feelings. It’s about maintaining standards for reasonable discourse. A straw man argument is not compelling.

    • Rob

      Remember: If it walks like racism and talks like racism, it’s most likely racism.

  • Mike

    The problem I have with debates like these is that they’re mostly meaningless, and a distraction from core issues. Change the name if it makes people feel better, but that isn’t going to do anything to ameliorate the actual problems facing native people. Those include racism, but other problems too: isolation on reservations and the general decline of rural economies, which disproportionately affects them (but not only them).

    It’s annoying that these sorts of tempests in a teapot become a stand-in for actions of substance. Their appeal really is limited to a small class of white liberals who want to pat themselves on the back for “doing something” while doing actually nothing.

    • Jerry

      It’s best to do nothing if you can’t do everything?

      • Mike

        It’s best to focus on difficult, long-term goals that can take years, decades, or even generations to realize, rather than empty symbolism.

        • You don’t think the name change is a step in the right direction?

        • Jerry

          So what you saying is nothing should ever happen? A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.

        • But, incremental small steps is what gets anyone anywhere, every time. Or, do you make one great leap from home to work every morning? 😉

          Also, thank you, Bob, for defining what it was about the “Lake Wellstone” name proposal that was making me so uneasy.

        • To accept your statement, you first have to believe that raising a consciousness is empty symbolism and that there is also value in historical ignorance. I would challenge that as a faulty premise.

          • Mike

            Not caring about renaming a lake in a mostly white neighborhood does not equal historical ignorance. That in itself is a faulty premise.

          • Historical ignorance is not knowing why a lake is called Lake Calhoun and embracing a name because that’s the one people have always it known it by.

            If embracing Lake Calhoun isn’t historical ignorance, then it’s racism because there’s no logical reason in 2017 to honor John C. Calhoun. None. And there’s a word for that.

          • Mike

            One doesn’t have to “embrace” either in this regard. One can ignore, and focus on more important and substantive issues.

          • Titus Kennedy

            On that note, what would be a good, substantive way to try to remedy the wrongs of our ancestors? Volunteering? Or do we need more drastic measures to make an impact? Legislation? Any good ideas out there, ideas that bring awareness and actually make a difference in today’s American Indian communities?

          • Yeah, one can. And yet, here you are. So was it about this issue that is claiming your time today rather than these other more important and substantive issues?

          • Titus Kennedy

            On that note, what would be a good, substantive way to try to remedy the wrongs of our ancestors? Volunteering? Or do we need more drastic measures to make an impact? Legislation? Any good ideas out there, ideas that bring awareness and actually make a difference in today’s American Indian communities?

            We can all pretty much agree that while changing the name of a lake is important today, we need real reconciliation over the next months, years, and decades.

          • Jerry

            You’re not making an argument for not changing the lake’s name, you’re making an arguement for changing the lake’s name, and doing more. I just don’t think you realise that.

          • kira

            But one doesn’t have to ignore in order to focus on more important and substantive issues.

          • Rob

            Let’s review: the lake in question was named after a slavery proponent and genocide architect. To be in favor of keeping the name is tantamount to being guilty of historical ignorance – and of suborning racism.

          • Mike

            Changing the name of the lake doesn’t change one bit of unsavory history, nor does it change anything about race relations today. It’s a cosmetic act that apparently will make various wealthy white urbanites feel good, however, and on that score its value is apparently enormous.

          • Nobody is making a claim of changing history , #1.

            #2, your statement, presented as fact, is actually prediction.

        • Bridget L.

          What do you suggest? We know what you don’t like, and what you think we shouldn’t be doing, but point us in a direction/action you feel would be more worth our time

        • Rob

          In case you haven’t heard, symbols can be powerful. They can even generate the momentum needed to change other, more “substantive” things.

          • Mike

            Sometimes, yes. There is also such a thing as empty symbolism. As I’ve said, the notion that renaming Lake Calhoun, in one of the wealthiest, whitest sections of Minneapolis, will provide some sort of catalyst for larger social change with respect to indigenous/white relations is something I find preposterous. But to each his/her own.

          • The loosening of the grip of the dominant culture is a continuing step and most certainly will lead to a more fair and just country. Maybe not in my lifetime or your lifetime, but someday.

            But take all of that out of the equation in the debate over the name of the lake.

            Make a case for honoring John C. Calhoun.

          • Mike

            I’m not the least bit interested in “honoring” Calhoun, and this is where I disagree with the framing of the debate. I would merely point out two things:

            1) The fact that the lake has carried his name for nearly two centuries is itself history. Rather than indulging the obsession for trying to erase bits of history that are inconvenient for the narrative we love to project about our country, perhaps we should adopt the stance that it’s our history, warts and all, and realize the horrible parts of it are also part of us. That seems much more intellectually honest than the move to sweep it all under the rug. Let it always serve as a topic of discussion. The idea that by purging Calhoun’s name, we can go back to some purer version of the past is nonsense.

            2) The views that Calhoun held were not unusual in his era. Many white people across the country, and more than that (to my knowledge there were a few Native American slaveholders in the South), held exactly the same views. I’d bet that plenty of other monuments nationwide exist to people who were as unpleasant to present-day sensibilities as Calhoun. To single out Calhoun for vilification is peculiar and ahistorical.

            Every generation is going to disagree – to a greater or lesser extent – with the specific figures who were honored by previous generations. But it’s fundamentally flawed to expect people of a different era to conform to all the norms of the present. Succeeding generations will be as appalled by us we are by our forbears. Seems wiser to accept that this is the human condition, rather than trying to run around and sanitize history.

          • Your two points have finally brought the discussion back to the usual two points that are cited when the dominant culture is threatened — history.

            You’re defining history as anything that happened in the past which, of course, is technically true but still doesn’t constitute history in the … ummm… historical sense.

            The thing about historians is they’re REALLY good at history. And they generally don’t need things to exist in the present to document it properly.

            Apple Valley used to be Lebanon Hills, I believe. Woodbury used to be Red Rock, Clay County was originally Breckenridge County, St. Louis County was Doty County then Newton County and none of those name changes erased anything except the name. It certainly didn’t erase history.

            It would be great if we actually COULD erase Calhoun’s history because then we wouldn’t have had the suffering endured by Native Americans. THAT’s the history of Calhoun which is now the legacy of Calhoun.

            But, yeah, now the debate has finally gotten back to the “you’re sweeping history under the rug”, as if the majority of people even KNEW who John C. Calhoun was, which most didn’t and likely still don’t.

            Erasing his name as an honor doesn’t do anything to the past. Nor does it place an expectation on people of the past that they should have known better. They didn’t; that’s why there’s a lake named for a guy who never set foot in Minnesota, pretty much on the strength of manifest destiny as a noble ideal. Fine, they got their lake.

            But that was then, and this is now and changing the name doesn’t confer an obligation on people of the past to reject what John C. Calhoun stood for. It confers an obligation on people of the present to reject what John C. Calhoun stood for.

            We’re not changing the history of the past, we’re changing the history that historians will write years from now about the people who lived in Minnesota in 2017.

            John C. Calhoun is never going to disappear from the history books, nor is Lake Calhoun, any more than Red Rock or Lebanon Hills or Newton or Breckenridge did.

            What changing the name does is tell historians that the people of 2017 did not embrace anything that Calhoun stood for.

            In that respect, this is a pretty important time in history.

            Either way, the people of 2017 are going to influence those historians and the people of 2017 who reject what Calhoun stood for have a right to be fairly portrayed many years from now.

            Which side of it do they want to be on?

          • Mike

            “What changing the name does is tell historians that the people of 2017 did not embrace anything that Calhoun stood for.”

            That’s the problem – right there. It’s a very pernicious notion that it’s our job to pass moral judgment on the past, as if we ourselves are so much more wise and pure and noble. We aren’t. As I brought up previously, look at US foreign policy for evidence of our current barbarity. It’s manifest destiny for the 21st century. Nothing has changed in that regard. Yet all the (non-white) people the US government kills in a week get less attention than a sideshow like this.

            If enough people want to change the name, then it will be changed, and life will go on. I understand why they want to do it, I just disagree that their reasons for doing it are terribly enlightened.

            I don’t know how or why Apple Valley or Woodbury became what they are known today. That history may or may not be mundane.

            But it’s clear that you and various people believe in what can only be termed a moral crusade to purify public spaces of certain names that are deemed offensive to current sensibilities. That’s your opinion, and you’re entitled to it. Personally, I want no part of a movement that seeks to congratulate itself for shallow, token efforts that have the effect of scrubbing public spaces of nasty aspects of our history. I think it should be front and center, right along with the stuff we like.

          • / / our job to pass moral judgment on the past

            We’re not. We’re passing it on the present as I just said. The Lake Calhoun as a lake honored Calhoun in the past. A Lake Calhoun in the present honors him in the present.

            Also, “sanitizing history” is an illogical term.

            / But it’s clear that you and various people believe in what can only be termed a moral crusade to purify public spaces of certain names that are deemed offensive to current sensibilities.

            If what you’re saying is there’s no intelligent reason to honor John C. Calhoun in the present, then, yes, that would be correct.

            Declaring that we abhor what John C. Calhoun stood for might be to you a shallow, token effort and that’s your perspective from your place of a dominant culture.

            You’re obviously free to have that perspective, just as I’m free to believe that those who agree with you are a masking fear of losing their place of domination in the long run. I suppose that could only be described as an immoral crusade, then.

            As I said before…


          • Mike

            There’s no better hallmark of dominant culture than ignoring the parallels I drew between past treatment of native Americans and our current foreign policy. I understand: establishment types tend to get queasy at such critiques. Best not to appear unpatriotic by questioning today’s imperialism. Only yesterday’s is acceptable.

            So yes, we’re back to my original post. People who consider themselves social justice types have a much better and bigger target than a Minneapolis lake.

          • //There’s no better hallmark of dominant culture

            I can think of plenty better. So could a bunch of people who aren’t in that dominant culture.

          • Rob

            Have you heard the phrase “The U.S.’s deeds have not often matched its creeds?” Calhoun is an excellent example, and there’s no justification for us to continue having his name on anything.

          • “Apple Valley used to be Lebanon Hills, I believe. Woodbury used to be Red Rock …”

            And, St. Paul used to be named Pig’s Eye! Before some (religious) do-gooders renamed the place so as to make it more attractive to a territorial legislature being given considerations for a state capital location. LOL

            Minnesota used to be part of Michigan Territory, too, and, later, Wisconsin Territory, before being cleaved off on its own after the former territories became states. I wonder if anyone in the then-newly-named Land of Sky-Tinted Water protested losing their former River-Running-Through-Red-Place identity and status in 1848?

    • Baby steps Mike, baby steps.

    • The reason the “big things” don’t get addressed is because so many white people are generally comfortable with the situation. The discomfort you see in their opposition to the name of a lake is a necessary step in getting them to feel uncomfortable about the other things that they’re perfect fine with because it doesn’t affect them.

      The name of a lake — for good or ill — affects them.

      There should be a LOT of discomfort for the dominant culture ahead. This isn’t the end of that discomfort. This is the beginning.

      • Mike

        “This isn’t the end of that discomfort. This is the beginning.”

        This strikes me as somewhat delusional wishful thinking, but everyone is entitled to an opinion. Many states and countless landmarks across the country, including other lakes in Minneapolis, have native names, or at least names derived from native words.

        Yes, I know the fact that Calhoun was an outspoken advocate of slavery (in an era when many white people were) makes everyone feel double-plus good about this, but the fact is, this doesn’t change a thing for anyone. Nor is it likely to. It will be just be another name that no one cares about in 20 years. The rest of the problems will still be with us because they’re hard.

        • // this doesn’t change a thing for anyone

          Change is a process not an event.

      • lusophone

        “The discomfort you see in their opposition to the name of a lake is a necessary step in getting them to feel uncomfortable about the other things that they’re perfect fine with because it doesn’t affect them.”

        I’m not so sure Mike is touching on those who are against the name change, dunno, maybe I’m wrong.

        There are too many who are in favor of the name change, but aren’t going to go beyond that, because they’re perfectly fine with the other things (homelessness, poverty, racism) that don’t affect them.

        • I would disagree. Many of the people supporting the name change are also in favor of, say, enforcing treaty rights. And many of the people supporting and pushing for the name change are also Native Americans who have hardly been passive in the fight for a recalibration from previous wrongs.

          And in many cases the same people who are saying “why don’t you do something that will make a difference, instead” are the same people who say, “whoa, now. Hold on here. not so fast” on almost every initiative that would do just that.

          In that environment, you take whatever progress you can get while you can get it and keep pushing.

          • lusophone

            I agree that the people out front on this name change, those who are actually doing something, have their hearts in the right place. And of course the Indigenous population has been vital in this fight.

            What I’m getting at is the critical mass of closet racists, especially in white neighborhoods of Minneapolis, who play themselves off as liberal, progressive and open-minded, but don’t actually walk the walk when given the chance.

            You see this at meetings when their neighborhoods have development projects come before the planning commission. “It will change the character of the neighborhood, etc. etc.” It’s in the way students of color are treated when they enroll in majority white community schools in white neighborhoods. I used to be blind to all of this. Thinking to myself, that only happens in those racist places. It took my wife constantly pointing it out to me and telling me hundreds of stories of how she and friends and acquaintances have been treated in our “liberal progressive” city of Minneapolis..

          • No doubt there is a percentage of people as you describe. But dismissing the effort because of those people diminishes the values and effort of the many more people who want to see fairness and justice and recognition long due the Dakota.

            Someone ALWAYS has a reason for not making the advances, however incremental, that are long overdue. After awhile, the only logical course is to dismiss THEM instead and move ahead.

          • lusophone

            I just think you might have the percentages swapped.

    • crystals

      Have you asked an American Indian if the name change is actually meaningless to them, though? Or are you just assuming and continuing the timeless pattern of white people telling American Indians what they should feel/think/want/do for their communities?

      *I don’t actually know if you’re a white person, to be clear. It’s just a hunch.

      • Mike

        I’m not telling anyone what their values should be, or what they should prioritize. I am saying, however, that I don’t believe these actions amount to much, and they serve as a distraction from more worthwhile goals. Anyone of any race can agree or disagree.

        • MikeB

          But you are telling people what their values and priorities should be.

    • Laurie K.

      So, we should continue to honor a man who wanted to remove an entire race
      and who actively promoted slavery by having the lake name remain Calhoun? I understand your point, there is much more to do and on a bigger scale. However referring to re-naming a lake as an “annoyance” is minimizing a step that attempts to right a wrong, no matter your opinion of its significane.

      • Mike

        Yes, I am “minimizing” it, because I think it’s minimal.

        • Rob

          From small things, big things come.

        • Betty Tisel

          To you.

    • Al

      **white fragility alert**

      • Mike

        Indeed. The reaction of what I’m guessing are mostly white posters here to the idea that this may not be a very important issue is emblematic of the fragility of their viewpoints.

        • Al

          Yeah… I don’t think that means what you think it means.

    • lusophone

      I was thinking this same thing as you, Mike. I actually am in favor of changing the name and I see Bob’s point of historical ignorance, we have to address that, always. But I do agree that we can’t just pat ourselves on the back and forget about the really tough issues. Kinda like a student who is congratulated for finally remembering to write his name on his homework, but nearly every problem on the worksheet is incorrect. There’s much more work to be done here.

    • Betty Tisel

      Who decides what is important? This is important to many of us and is a gateway to greater awareness of MN’s Dakota past and present. It’s important to Cloud Man’s many descendants, who live in MN now, Having returned since their ancestors forced exile

    • kira

      Sure, the gesture is purely symbolic, but symbols can and do carry weight. We can do this and support other issues affecting MN American Indians as well. It’s not like if we change the name, that’s it. Now we can’t do anything else because we chose this.

  • >>But changing the name “is a poke in the eye of over 90 percent of the people who live in the lakes area.”<<

    It's a good thing no OTHER lakes in the area have ever had a name change.

    /Except for Lake Nokomis and Lake Hiawatha

    • BJ


      Lake Hiawatha was Rice Lake (and wasn’t really a lake)

      Lake Nokomis was Lake Amelia and that Nokomis is grandmother of Hiawatha from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem, The Song of Hiawatha ( and that is not a Dakota or Ojibwe work of transmission but an original work of American Romantic literature).

  • TominEagan

    For folks of a certain age, I offer a compromise name. As we already have a Lake Harriet, let’s name the other one Ozzie.

    • Bob Sinclair

      Again for the the white folks?
      Or is it for Ozzie Osbourne?

      • TominEagan

        Actually, I like Bde Maka Ska.

        • Bob Sinclair

          Me too.

      • Rob

        Crazy Train Yacht Club – that has a nice ring to it!

  • Mike Worcester

    Several years ago, a group of h.s. student in Cass County tried to push the idea of renaming Squaw Lake — the town and the body of water — because of the meaning of the word “squaw”. And guess what happened? The chorus of “we’re not offended” and “what’s wrong with the name” and “it’s history” and “it’s only a loud minority that want this done” was heard. Alright, fine then. How about we change the name to what the word really meant — call it Pussy Lake, or Vagina Lake or Snatch Lake or what ever euphemism you want? (I’m going to get in trouble for this, aren’t I? 🙂 ).

    Renaming a public body like a lake should not be easy and should be done with due consideration. There has been an extensive conversation about this. It is not being done capriciously or by fiat. The reasoning behind changing Lake Calhoun to Lake Bde Maka Ska is logical and cogent and persuasive.

    My guess? Fifty years from now we will look back and wonder what the fuss was even about.

  • TGB

    Really want to make a difference? Move. Leave. Go back to Europe.

    Want to know who the trail of tears was really hard for? The Black slaves owned by the Cherokee. And let’s not forget the other tribes killed by Cherokee.

    The truth is settlers wanted Natives removed, and here we are, enjoying the conclusions of their policies. If the rich 1-2% that live around Calhoun can sleep better knowing the name has changed, yipee. What a complete contradiction.

    And Bob, you don’t need to write cogent and logical, cogent is sufficient, but of course you knew that.

    • Kassie

      What do the Cherokee have to do with changing the lake’s name to honor the Dakota? Or did you just want to throw that bit in there to try and make it seem like white people enslaving black people wasn’t a terrible, brutal tragedy?

      • Jerry

        It’s the old “other people’s crimes excuse our crimes” argument.

        • X.A. Smith

          AKA “Whataboutism,” a favorite tactic of President Trump’s.

      • Calhoun is credited with authoring the plan to forcibly relocated the eastern Native American tribes to what is now Oklahoma, including, the Cherokees.

        • Kassie

          Yes, so? We aren’t debating calling the lake something to do with the Cherokee. It has nothing to do with this. Calhoun was bad, the lake shouldn’t be named after him. The name was previously called Bde Maka Ska, so it should be named that. The Cherokee and what they did or didn’t do around slavery doesn’t come into this equation.

          • Rob

            Seems highly relevant to me that we not have a lake named in honor of the architect of Native American genicide, period.

          • Kassie

            But, as I said, what the Cherokee did or did not do around slavery is not relevant. The Cherokee could still be holding slaves and eat babies, but that has no bearing on this discussion. It was only brought into the conversation to somehow excuse the actions of Calhoun.

          • Rob


          • I’m not arguing his point, which I disagree with. I am answering your question: “What do the Cherokee have to do with changing the lake’s name to honor the Dakota?” Calhoun and the oppression of the eastern Native American tribes are linked. That is what he was famous for when the lake was named. Considering the way the Dakota people suffered later in the 19th century, it makes the lake’s name even more insulting.

  • Viewing history as it was and not how we want it to be is the first step in preventing it’s recurrence. We all have flaws and we all get confused from time to time about what deeds we should be celebrating. Correcting those mistakes shows character.

    • Well, John C Calhoun was a racist and genocidal politician and the existence of a lake in his honor has done nothing to prevent the reoccurrence of racism.

      If anything, the effort to change the name has educated people about someone they didn’t even know.

      You may recall, the original opposition to the name change years ago was the assertion that it wasn’t named after John C. Calhoun, but after John A. Calhoun, a Minnesotan who apparently died in one of our many wars. That, of course, was not correct.

      Perhaps an effort for standardized history tests in MN schools today would be a more efficient way to prevent its recurrence because too many people are indifferent to it until it becomes a symbol for the loosening of a dominant culture’s grip.

      • I’m in favor of the change, I guess my statement was ambiguous. What I was trying to say is that whatever ideals we had in the past, we shouldn’t be afraid to revisit them now. In fact, we should revisit them from time to time. At one point people believed John Calhoun was a great man worthy of having his name on a landmark. That was a mistake. Being willfully ignorant of the past for the sake of convenience or worse, knowing it was a mistake and failing to correct it, is not how one learns from history.

        As for the testing, that depends a lot on the views of who writes the tests. For example, is Woodrow Wilson a Nobel Peace Prize winner who tried to move the world towards lasting peace, or is he a noted racist that made segregation the law of the (southern) land? He’s both, but most of us learned the first one and not the second.

        • I’m jealous that your class even made it to Woodrow Wilson. :*)

          But, yeah, you’re absolutely right. People say “well there was a time when Calhoun was the norm and people had different sensibilities” and the proper response is, “yep, and they had a lake named after him during that time”. That’s not a good enough reason to honor him in any way now.

          And, of course, they’ll come back with “you’re erasing history” in which case the only logical response would be, “wouldn’t that be great if we were?”

        • Rob

          I think it’s safe to say that Native Americans never believed Calhoun was a great man. My guess is not too many African Americans back in the day thought so either. What you’re really saying is that the dominant white culture thought he was a great man. Which makes it all O.K., right? Because there’s no need to take the opinion of slaves and savages into consideration, right?

          • “Which makes it all O.K., right? Because there’s no need to take the opinion of slaves and savages into consideration, right?”

            I’m not sure who you are talking to, because none of that is what I said. I think it was a mistake to name the lake after him. A mistake we are correcting now. If you want to rail against dominant white culture, feel free, but don’t put those words in my mouth so you can have a convenient opponent to argue against.

          • Rob

            How else should we interpret your statement that //At one point people believed John Calhoun was a great man worthy of having his name on a landmark.// If you aren’t using “people” as a stand-in for the exclusionary, dominant white culture of the time, who do you mean?

          • The people who wrote his name on the map. They probably were white, I’ll give you that. The surveyors that Calhoun sent to the area in the early 1800s named it after him. I don’t think that Calhoun was considered universally great among white people. Between his views and his Irish ancestry, I’m sure that there were many who thought he was a horrible human being.

  • Postal Customer

    “Underlying any invocation of “politically correct” is fear that whites are losing a grip on their dominance of Minnesota culture and historical perspective.”

    Changing the name of a lake reduces that dominance?

    • In part, yes. Obviously.

      A lot of you opponents see this as one thing. It’s not one thing. It’s a step. A small step,for sure. But a step nonetheless.

      That scares people. And so you have a lot of white people scoffing at all of this. But the bottom line is: they’re scared.


      • lusophone

        I think people just want to make sure it’s clear that this is a small step in the grand scheme of things. Not all of us saying this are opponents of the name change.

        • They want to make sure that people know it’s not going to what… restore property that was stolen… allow Native Americans to fish under treaty rights without fear of harassment… be able to move away from a nuclear power plant that was plopped down near tribal land and then do with their new land what they wish (see PiPress)… get access to opportunities — economic and educational — that the dominant culture has…

          Who on earth believes that? Give me a name. Any name.

          • lusophone

            Wait, are you saying, of course this (the name change) won’t change all those atrocities you cite? But that’s my point, you can’t just keep plugging away with small victories and be content. The discomfort needs to be more significant on the side of the dominant culture. In soccer, sorry if my sports analogy belittles the subject at hand, your team can keep possession of the ball with nice short passes that pretty much go nowhere, but if you have no possession with purpose, i.e. decisive, significant movement to the goal that results in scoring, you lose. We need more significant movement.

          • The flaw is your assertion that anyone is content. Check that, anyone who actually cares about the atrocities I cite are content.

            There are tons of people perfectly content with those atrocities. They’re the ones who object to even small steps, let alone the big ones.

  • LifebloodMN

    I’ll give the new name about 18 months before it’s changed again. People do know that the translation is “White Earth Lake” right? The new name seems slightly derogatory. Can someone help me understand why the Dakota named it this?

    • My guess? Snow. Enough snow so that the earth turns white.

    • I was close, but no cigar. Not snow, but environmental nonetheless:

      From the wiki: “White Earth Indian Reservation (or Gaa-waabaabiganikaag (lit. ‘Where there is an abundance of white clay’).”

      • lusophone

        That makes sense. I was just at Pilot Knob/Oheyawahi the other day and the path as it leads down to Highway 13 was still kinda wet from the recent rain. It’s a whitish clay color there also.

    • Jerry

      How is White Earth Lake derogatory?

  • I don’t see much difference between throwing up a casino and putting up a Costco.

  • I presume they’d close Treasure Island, because what would be the point?

    At the same time, there is a need for housing for the people on Prairie Island. Where would they go?

  • gus

    This should be a no-brainer, like eliminating Columbus Day for a day honoring the Native people who were enslaved, displaced, murdered.

  • Jerry

    I’ve heard many good arguments for changing the name but I have yet to hear someone elaborate a reason to keep it. Most seem to come down to simple inertia.

    • Heh. Same people who say “but we’ve always done it this way” when an innovative idea is proposed at work.

  • Capt. Norb

    Meanwhile at Winona State University, activists want a WPA era mural along with a bronze statue removed due to their being offensive to indigenous people. No capitulation yet, but administration willing to have a ‘conversation’.

  • Nicky L

    Thank you, Bob!