Lake Calhoun gets guerrilla-style name change

Rogue sign changers replaced "Lake Calhoun" with "Lake Mde Maka."

Rogue sign changers replaced "Lake Calhoun" with "Lake Mde Maka."

This summer Minneapolis has been a city divided over the name of its most popular lake. While the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board is mulling rechristening Lake Calhoun, which is named after a pro-slavery Southern senator, a guerrilla artist (or artists) couldn’t wait for the yea votes.

On Wednesday morning several tipsters spotted signs around the giant puddle on which “Lake Calhoun” had been changed to Lake Mde Maka — a Dakota-ized version of its original name.

“I think this is somebody, probably well-meaning, making a point with MSP or Photoshop,” says park board commissioner Brad Bourn, a proponent of the name change. “There have been a couple of those floating out.”

Not this time. This one’s the real deal. A couple phone calls later, Bourn confirmed that the signs have been spotted around the lake.

“Well, I think it’s awesome!” he wrote back in an email.

But there’s just one thing. The sign-doctoring hooligans goofed on the name, Bourn says. The original Dakota name was Bde Maka Ska, or Lake White Earth. Though it’s pronounced the same way, mde is simply the white-guy spelling of bde, which means lake, Bourn says.

“So this, if you were to translate, this says ‘lake lake white,’” says the parks lord, noting that some take offense to the m-d-e spelling.

Translational discrepancies aside, the rogue signage edit comes at an opportune time. The park board is scheduled to chitchat about a potential name swap at its meeting tonight. While Bourn doesn’t expect a vote, he hopes to get a better feel for where his fellow commishes are at.

“I feel like there are some commissioners that are interested in it, but I also feel like the park board is maybe trying to skirt our responsibility on the issue,” he says. “Every formal conversation that we’ve had there are a lot of folks saying that it’s somebody else’s problem. My contention is that it’s a Minneapolis park and the Minneapolis park board has a lot of influence over what the name of a Minneapolis park is.”