Restore the name Bde Maka Ska

One of the best views in town is from Bde Maka Ska

Update (11/21): Bde Maka Ska made it past a committee vote, 4/3. For: McLaughlin, Greene, Higgins and Goettel, against: Callison, Johnson and Opat.

Next step: Full board vote (same members as above) Tuesday, 11/28.

You can help by emailing your county commissioners in support of Bde Maka Ska.

Neighbors for More Neighbors recognizes that we are living on stolen land. This is why we support restoring the name of the lake to Bde Maka Ska. This is a decision about the recognition of land, and thus related to land use issues.

English speakers have been learning new words for centuries, and this is one of the things English is known for: many of our words come from French, Latin, Greek, and many indigenous languages of the Americas (potato, tapioca, jaguar, raccoon, avocado, possum, moccasin, manomin, wigwam, possibly even caucus). Words are a proxy for the people who use them, and a rejection of one word in the face of a long history of borrowed words in English is a rejection of the people. We can say Bde Maka Ska, and we can recognize that this name is used by the Dakota people to refer to a piece of land we took.

The final vote will happen in the next week or two, at which point MN DNR will be the next in line to decide. Please help us support this by writing in a letter of public comment.

How to submit a public comment

The deadline for public comment was Friday, October 20th, however the board has not yet voted on this decision (and will do so in the next week). We can still impress upon the board that the decision is important and this side needs to be heard. Here’s a map of the commissioners’ districts, and their contact info below. While you might want to contact your commissioner, perhaps you’d want to contact them all.

You do not need to write a long email, one or two sentences will do!

District 1 — Mike Opat — — 612–348–7881
District 2 — Linda Higgins — — 612–348–7882
District 3 — Marion Greene — — 612–348–7883
District 4 — Peter McLaughlin — — 612–348–7884
District 5 — Debbie Goettel — — 612–348–7885
District 6 — Jan Callison — — 612–348–7886
District 7 — Jeff Johnson — — 612–348–7887

Title: Public comment on Bde Maka Ska

Talking points:

  • New names are not hard to learn: think of how often we learn current names in the news of foreign dignitaries and leaders. We can learn, recognize and use Bde Maka Ska.
  • English borrows words all the time, and has for centuries and millennia since it came into being. One more word is not going to cause people many problems.
  • English speakers barely notice even when we learn a new word that was created in the last few years: retweet, Tumblr, WaPo, Drumpf, to name a few. The suggestion that a name that is far older than any of these is too much is nonsense, and is a rejection of the people who use the word. It pretty much reeks of Drumpfism.
  • Many places already exist that have bilingual signage, and signage in minority languages.
  • We are on stolen land, and one of the steps we must take to recognize this is by recognizing the many place names in our area that come from native languages. Dakota is spoken here. Ojibwe is spoken here.
  • Bde Maka Ska is not alone when it comes to indigenous place names we all know. To name a few: Mississippi, Owatonna, Orono, Anoka, Mahtomedi, Menomonie, Osseo, Minnetonka, Shakopee, Chanhassen. One more is not going to present any difficulty.
  • Bde Maka Ska is not alone when it comes to words that we use on a daily basis originating in native languages of the Americas. We can learn one more.
  • Monroe-era Secretary of War John Calhoun promoted slavery and drafted the Indian Removal Act. In 2017, this is not a person we should recognize in our lakes: this stands in the way of an inclusive future.
  • Restoring the name Bde Maka Ska does not fix or erase the history of atrocities committed against indigenous populations, but it is a step in the right direction.

Facebook Page & other groups

There is a Facebook page, Bde Maka Ska Name Reclaimation, tracking this issue, like it here.

If you know of other groups organizing, let us know and we will gladly list them here!

Even More Native Words in English

Wikipedia has a huge list of words in English that come from Indigenous Languages of the Americas, including many from Algonquin languages (the family that Ojibwe belongs to), and a few from Siouan languages like Dakota and Lakota. It’s important to note that the origin of Minneapolis is also a combination of Dakota mni ‘water’ + Greek polis ‘city’.

Here’s a list of native place names, river, and lake names in Hennepin county, sourced from Minnesota Place Names. Where possible I’ve included the etymology according to this book.

Chanhassen (Dakota: chan tree, haza whortleberry or huckleberry), Hassan Township (Dakota: haza), Minnehaha (Dakota: mni ‘water’, haha ‘fall’), Minnetonka (Dakota: mni ‘water’ + tonka ‘big’), Minnetrista (mni + trista ‘crooked’), Orono (named for Chief Joseph Orono of the Penobscot Nation), Osseo, Tamarack (possibly Abenaki), Wayzata (Dakota: Waziyata, at the pines, the north), Nokomis.

Keep in mind, this is a small fraction of what exists, and names that have made it to official recognition: there are many more, and many more across the state.