Slowly, Lake Calhoun is losing its weird tribute to Mr. Slavery

Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board Commissioner Brad Bourn thinks more should be done.

Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board Commissioner Brad Bourn thinks more should be done.

Congratulations, petition signers and emailers angry that Minneapolis’ most famous lake is named after a dead racist. You won!


Amid summerlong calls to rename Lake Calhoun and adopt its original Dakota name, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board got behind a compromise move on Wednesday. A day after an overnight spree where prankster activists covered lake signs with the Dakota name, the board approved legitimate dual-name signs. The signs — replacing the same ones the activists covered — will instead list both Lake Calhoun and Bde Maka Ska, which translates as Lake White Earth.

“It was a very small and somewhat disappointing first step,” says Brad Bourn, a Park Board commissioner in favor of a name change.

While the Park Board does not have authority to officially change the name, Bourn says the powers that be, namely the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources boss, look toward the board for guidance. Bourn approves of the new signage, which will be changed at beaches and most major intersections around the parkway, he says. However, he hoped for an outright denouncement of John C. Calhoun, a South Carolina senator who was way into slavery, as the lake’s namesake.

“It’s a step in the right direction, but people came to the Park Board looking for an absolute bare minimum and I feel a little bit like we’re patting ourselves on the back for doing less than the bare minimum on the issue,” Bourn says.

There are still paths toward formally dubbing the rollerblading haven Bde Maka Ska, although Bourn says Wednesday’s vote indicates the board has little appetite for weighing in any further.

“We haven’t answered the question, is John C. Calhoun somebody that the Minneapolis Park Board wants to honor and somebody that Minneapolitans want to honor?” Bourn says. “And I think that answer is no.”