John C. Calhoun—Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

Bde Maka Ska (“White Earth Lake”) in Minneapolis, Minnesota was restored to its original Dakota name after a multi-year legal battle. It had been named for John C. Calhoun, a slaveowner, racist, and vocal advocate of slavery.

From at least 1839 through 2018, Bde Maka Ska bore the name “Lake Calhoun”, in honor of enthusiastic slaveholder and racist John C. Calhoun, who as United States secretary of war had sent the army to survey the area.1

In 2011, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board considered renaming the lake, but determined that they did not have the legal authority to do so. In 2015, a petition was launched to change the name, culminating in name changes at the state and federal level in 2018.

Restoring the name Bde Maka Ska was opposed by the group Save Lake Calhoun*, who sued to prevent it.2 The Minnesota court of appeals ruled in their favor, but the Minnesota supreme court upheld the name change in May 2020.3

*The primary driver of the Save Lake Calhoun campaign, Tom Austin, was caught acting in a way that looks pretty racist in May 2020,4 casting some doubt on his claimed totally-not-racist motivations in fighting so hard to keep Calhoun’s name on Bde Maka Ska.5


  1. Wikipedia: John C. Calhoun ↩︎

  2. Save Lake Calhoun ↩︎

  3. Minnesota DNR can rename Lake Calhoun as Bde Maka Ska, high court rules ↩︎

  4. Minneapolis Man Loses Job, Has Office Lease Terminated After Threatening to Call Police on Black Entrepreneurs ↩︎

  5. Why I funded the lawsuit to save the name Lake Calhoun] ↩︎

Photo Credit: Star Tribune