Organizing to Reclaim a Stolen Name

Earlier this year, the Minneapolis Parks and Rec has begun the process of tearing down old signs for “Lake Calhoun” to make way for new ones bearing the Lake’s original Dakota name: Bde Maka Ska.

The lake has been called “Calhoun” for nearly 200 years, after U.S. Secretary of War John Calhoun, a supporter of slavery who rose to become a U.S. Senator and Vice President under John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson.

The unlikely name change of Minneapolis’s  largest lake has been part of a years-long organizing effort by the Dakota people, including CLP’s former Field Director, Syd Beane, and his twin daughters, Dakota historian Kate Beane and Carly Bad Heart Bull.

“Our community has been advocating for this change for many, many years,” Kate Beane, told City Pages following the victory. The family has joined other Dakota advocates in pushing for an acknowledgement of the troubling history of the area: following the armed conflict between the Dakota people and the United States government in 1862, the surviving Dakota people were interned, exiled, or executed.

“Our language is here,” Kate told City Pages. “The legacy of our grandparents and their resiliency and their strength and generosity will always be remembered. We’ve always been here. We never left.”

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