Even if you don’t agree with it, you have to acknowledge the Minneapolis Park Board’s response to the venture capitalist behind the effort to overturn the renaming of Lake Calhoun to Bde Maka Ska.
Last month, the Court of Appeals ruled the Department of Natural Resources didn’t have the authority to approve the name change request at the behest of the board and the Hennepin County Commissioners.
Tom Austin insists his drive isn’t indicative of his admiration for John C. Calhoun, the former vice president and secretary of war who designed the forced relocation of Native Americans from their land, even though he once asked in a newspaper ad “what good have the Dakota Indians done that is a positive contribution to Minnsota?”
He claimed the name brings back fond memories of his nearby lake, beach, and neighborhood.
The park board can’t change the name of the lake. But they can change the name of nearby entities he holds dear.
A park board committee will vote Wednesday on dumping the Calhoun name from parkways, parkland, roads and beach, the Star Tribune reports.
West Calhoun Boulevard, Calhoun Drive, East Lake Calhoun Parkway and West Lake Calhoun Parkway would disappear.
Austin’s new address could be Bde Maka Ska Parkway.
“The indigenous folks that have been in this area … called it Bde Maka Ska,” Commissioner Londel French told the newspaper. “That’s the name, and we want to make sure that the adjacent parkways, which we have total control over and total say over, reflect the name of the lake.”
“It’s probably something we should have done when we changed our signs out and when the DNR had restored the name of the lake,” park board President Brad Bourn added.
This is what local officials said they wouldn’t do when Lake Calhoun was renamed. It would be costly for businesses and confusing for residents. But it’s a tit-for-tat war now.
And it’s not a done deal. At least one commissioner has signaled she’s against the idea.
Still, French, who is black, makes a compelling argument that reveals Austin’s court victory isn’t the last shot fired.
“We walk on the streets with the names of people who oppressed us,” he said. “No other two groups I really think have to do that besides Native and black folk.”