By David Tompkins and Lee Todd
Bde Maka Ska has been a landmark for generations. Formally named Lake Calhoun, many people only had a vague notion of its namesake, John C. Calhoun. Calhoun was an American politician active in the first half of the 19th century and a notorious racist who pursued cruel policies towards Black and Indigenous people. In recent years efforts were made to change the lake’s name. In 2017, the Park Board voted unanimously to change the name back to Bde Maka Ska. Legal disputes kept the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources from officially changing the name to Bde Maka Ska until 2020.
In 2018, several residents of the neighborhood formerly known both as East Calhoun and ECCO launched a community conversation to discuss whether East Calhoun was an appropriate name for that neighborhood. In 2019, the then-named East Calhoun Community Organization (ECCO) engaged in an extensive, consultative process to change the neighborhood name. This effort involved significant community outreach and three rounds of voting, resulting in a narrow majority for the non-acronym ECCO over East Bde Maka Ska.
Since that vote in late 2019, much took place. The State Supreme Court ruled that the name Bde Maka Ska could replace Lake Calhoun. Many area businesses and organizations removed Calhoun from their names. Perhaps most importantly, the murder of George Floyd occasioned a national and local reckoning over the issue of racial inequality. Many neighbors and board members felt that ECCO still contained an implicit reference to Calhoun, and thus the neighborhood board began a new name change process that included another round of neighborhood outreach and discussion in early 2021. This resulted in a new vote on the neighborhood name in the spring of 2021, where three-quarters of residents voted to change the neighborhood name. East Bde Maka Ska received a large plurality of the votes as the replacement.
East Bde Maka Ska is now voting on a new logo for the neighborhood as the final step in celebrating the new name. The two options are depicted below. East Bde Maka Ska residents can vote for their preferred option until February 25.