New Letter to DNR Commissioner Continues Fight Over Lake Calhoun Name Change

New Letter to DNR Commissioner Continues Fight Over Lake Calhoun Name Change Photo: KSTP/File

January 11, 2018 05:36 PM

The battle over changing the name of Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis continues.

By a 4-3 vote in November, the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners voted to change the name of the lake to Bde Maka Ska, its original Dakota name.


RELATED: Newspaper Ad Questions Origin of Lake Calhoun Name

The move comes after objections arose to the Lake Calhoun name because of former Vice President John C. Calhoun's involvement with treaties that removed Native Americans from their land. There were also objections to the fact Calhoun was a slave owner, and a supporter of the practice.

The name change still must gain state and federal approval, including the approval of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

And now opponents of the change have sent a letter to DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr, urging that the application to change the lake's name be rejected.

RELATED: County Board Approves Name Change for Lake Calhoun

The letter argues the county board did not have "the authority or jurisdiction to entertain the change of name" under state law – citing Minnesota Statute 83A.05, which allows for 15 or more legal voters residing in a county where all or part of a body of water is located to petition the county board to change the name.

But it seemingly makes exceptions for "a name which has existed for 40 years."

Minnesota Statute 83A.02, however, states the DNR commissioner shall "determine the correct and most appropriate names of the lakes, streams, places and other geographic features in the state, and the spelling thereof by written order published in the State Register," as well as "in cooperation with the county boards and with their approval, change the names of lakes, streams, places, and other geographic features, with the end in view of eliminating, as far as possible, duplication of names within the state."

RELATED: Path Work at Calhoun/Bde Maka Ska Makes Room for Dakota Art

As the letter sent to Landwehr acknowledges, there is also a Lake Calhoun in Kandiyohi County.

"While another lake named 'Calhoun' exists in Kandiyohi County, there is little confusion or need to eliminate duplication," the letter reads, going on to list a number of lake names already duplicated in the state.

"These are only a few examples. In short, there is no confusion about duplicative names as there is a history of duplicative names in our state."

Attorney Erick Kaardal, who is representing Save Lake Calhoun (a group opposed to the name change), wrote the letter, which he said serves as a warning the group he represents plans to challenge the decision in the Minnesota Court of Appeals if the DNR approves the name change passed by the county board.

"You can't let political correctness violate the rule of law," Kaardal said. "You can't let anything violate the rule of law. But we're picking on political correctness here because that is what seems to be driving this particular case."

A statement from Hennepin County, however, said the county board complied with its statutory obligations and consulted with the DNR about the process.

"Minnesota law outlines the procedure counties are to follow when a valid petition for name change is served on it," the statement reads. "Hennepin County complied with its statutory obligations and consulted with the Commissioner of the Department of Natural Resource (DNR) regarding the appropriate process. 

"Ultimately, because the name Lake Calhoun has been in existence for more than 40 years, the authority to rename this lake lies with the Commissioner of the DNR."  


Frank Rajkowski

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