One historic summer, I started a daily exercise routine: biking around the lake.

Lake Harriet and Lake Calhoun are like twin sisters, nestled in a lovely part of south Minneapolis.

After work, my brother and I would bike 1.8 miles to the nearest one– Lake Harriet– loop 2.99 miles around the lake, then home.

I grew to love the trip, the lakes, and the loss of ten pounds that summer.

Now I live 50 miles west of Minneapolis.  I rarely visit the lakes, so on a recent jaunt into the cities,  I was surprised when I noticed the sign showing the name change from Lake Calhoun to Bde Maka Ska. This is its original Dakota name and it means “White Earth Lake.”

Lake Calhoun was named after John C. Calhoun and apparently, his character was in question.

I rolled my eyes.

“Why do we have to be so politically correct?”

I stumbled through my made-up phonetic version of “Bde Maka Ska” and complained that it was hard to say.

My daughter was in the back seat and started digging to find facts about John C. Calhoun and why he was out of favor.

We found out:

  • Calhoun was a political figure through two presidential terms: Democrat senator, Secretary of War, and Vice President under Andrew Jackson.
  • The lake was named after him when he sent surveyors to map the area around Fort Snelling.
  • He actively advocated the benefits of slavery and Indian removal.

So, I pondered this.

Typically, I do not embrace change very quickly.

But why should I defend this deceased man and his right to have a lake named after him?

Although his values may have been the norm for many Southerners in the 1800’s, they are offensive to most people now.

Then, my daughter played the proper pronunciation of the Bde Maka Ska on her phone.

It sounds like “Bih—DAY – Makaska (rhymes with “Uh SAY, I’ll boss ya!).

Hearing its musical Native American name aloud put me over the edge.

I was converted.

But I have one request: please don’t find any dirt on Harriet Lovejoy, namesake of that other lake.

The one next to the beautiful Bde Maka Ska.

© Lisa M. Luciano



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