We asked 10 'Lake Calhoun' defenders why they care so dang much about the lake name

In this metaphor, the "raft" is "sensible discourse" and Bde Maka Ska is the roiling waters of... online comment sections? Sure!

In this metaphor, the "raft" is "sensible discourse" and Bde Maka Ska is the roiling waters of... online comment sections? Sure! Star Tribune


That caption accompanied yesterday's Facebook share of "Look at all these folks jumping into frozen Bde Maka Ska," a photo slideshow of Saturday's annual Polar Plunge charity event. 

Innocuous stuff, right? Amazingly, depressingly... wrong. 

Fourteen months (!) removed from Lake Calhoun being renamed Bde Maka Ska, the comment section ignited into a shitstorm of readers re-litigating what the Minneapolis lake should really be called. 

On one hand, you saw commenters who favor the lake's current/original Dakota name; they restated that the former namesake, politician John C. Calhoun, was a pro-slavery zealot with no real connection to Minnesota. On the other, you saw endless snippy variations of "You mean Calhoun." The most up-voted comments tended to be supportive of Bde Maka Ska. (Dive into the 300-plus deep comment section, if you dare.)

Since the mere mention of Bde Maka Ska's actual name elicited so much vitriol, we wondered: How could anyone -- regardless of political stripes -- get so dang worked up over what a lake is called?

So we asked!

From the City Pages Facebook account, I offered the following to the most blunt Calhoun truthers: "Hello [insert name]. May we ask why, specifically, you care so much about the lake's name?" The responses turned out to be widely rooted, from nostalgia to convenience to annoyance to -- no joke -- arguing the name change was tantamount to Nazi book burnings.

Here, presented without comment, are the reasons some people are still vocally resistant to Bde Maka Ska.

Dave Kjell:

“Years of memories at Lake Calhoun. I suppose I should just forget that and call those memories something else now. Because some guy 100 years ago was a POS.”

AJ Wacek:

“Because liberals and news organizations such as yourself are intolerant of anything that offends you, and you seek to change names of things just to appease your own dissatisfaction. It was originally named lake Calhoun by the people that founded our state and just because he owned slaves does not mean we should eradicate a name.”

Brenda Lea:

“That is the only name it ever had, changing the name is all fine but it is still Calhoun in 100s of thousands peoples eyes.”

Sharon Heath-Boudreau:

“In my parents lifetime and mine and my children's it was lake Calhoun.”

Stephen Noel:

“Tired of political correctness and liberals cramming social justice down every aspect of our lives. Seriously, I get the world has problems but 24/7? Someone is offended by something. It's a lake, and the name is well known. I dont give a shit if the guy used to be a racist, he is an historical figure and how dare anyone who purposely try to erase history...even the negative dark history. Reminds me of the Nazi book burning.”

Ray Zara:

“It's more like a passing amusement. I have a hard time taking any of this seriously. At least it will be cheaper than when Berkeley, CA decided to change Grove St. to Martin Luther King Junior Way. THAT'S a lesson in Civic mismanagement that leaves this silliness in the dust...”

Steve Johnson:

“It is easier to say, and a part of growing up my parents always called it Lake Calhoun where we would picnic. It is history, sure maybe they do not like the guy who the name belongs to, but it is also a reminder of history. Covering it up with a new name does not change history, it helps us to forget it.”

Janet Jones:

“I’m old, I’m used to it, and I don’t like rewriting history. Forward yes, not backwards. Thank you for asking.”

Jerry Pihlaja:

“Because that is what it was called as long as I can remember.”

Steven Thomson:

“I don’t care that much, but that’s what I know it as. That’s what I grew up with and it was called lake Calhoun for many years.”