“Save Lake Calhoun” petition shows lakeside homeowners united against Bde Maka Ska

In an effort to stop a process to change the name of Calhoun Parkway, Tom Austin of “Save Lake Calhoun” has submitted a petition signed by over 300 lakeside homeowners to the Minneapolis Park Board. You’ll remember Tom Austin from his recent Star Tribune opinion piece in which he railed against the “elites” forcing a lake name change on “everyday Minnesotans.”

Among the signatures on his petition is local sports team owner and real estate billionaire Jim Pohlad. Not included in the signature gathering effort: anyone living in the buildings marked “rental” on Austin’s map of pro-Calhoun households. And if you own multiple lakeside properties like Robert Farivar, you get to sign the petition twice.

In 2017, Austin formed the legal entity “Save Lake Calhoun.” The group won a victory two weeks ago when an appeals court ruled that the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources didn’t have the authority, despite support from Hennepin County and the Minneapolis Park Board, to change the name of Lake Calhoun to Bde Maka Ska.

Until the DNR changed the name in 2018, Bde Maka Ska had been named after John C. Calhoun, a 19th century pro-slavery politician from South Carolina. Supporters of the change, including Park Board President Brad Bourn, referred to it as a “restoration” of the original Dakota name for the lake, which translates to “White Earth Lake.”

Writing in the Star Tribune in 2017, Austin characterized the sentiments of the people who signed his petition:

“These people raised a good question: What exactly have the Dakota Indians done that is a positive contribution to all Minnesotans? What is the heroism or accomplishment that we are recognizing in order to justify renaming the lake to Bde Maka Ska? Unfortunately, nobody had any answers.”

Two neighborhoods adjacent to the lake — East Calhoun and West Calhoun — are currently considering changing their names to remove “Calhoun.” In 2018, the CARAG neighborhood organization (the Calhoun Area Residents Action Group) voted to change their name to South Uptown.