The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board added “Bde Maka Ska” to signs around Lake Calhoun in the fall of 2015. The move came after more than a 1,000 people signed a petition asking the board to rename the lake, saying “Lake Calhoun” represents a history of slavery and racism. The lake was named after John Caldwell Calhoun, a South Carolina statesman, former vice president, senator, secretary of state and proponent of slavery. He is infamously known for preaching slavery as “a positive good” in the 1800s.
In May 2017, the Park and Recreation Board voted unanimously to restore the original Dakota language name of Bde Maka Ska, meaning Lake White Earth. In December 2017, Hennepin County Commissioners, by a 4-3 vote, ratified the Park Board decision. The Commissioner representing West Calhoun, Marion Greene, voted in favor. The name change was approved by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Board of Geographic Names. However, in response to a legal challenge a state court ruled that only the Legislature could change the name of a lake that had been recognized for 40 years or more. For now the Park Board continues to recognize the name of the lake as Bde Maka Ska while an appeal of the court ruling is being contemplated by the Department of Natural Resources.
The new signs leave open the question of how to actually pronounce the Dakota name.