Pushback Against “Bde Maka Ska” Latest Example of White Privilege

The Star Tribune ran a disturbing Op/Ed Monday titled: I asked 350 people who live along or near Lake Calhoun about renaming it — The breakdown is 20 percent for and 80 percent against. Equally interesting are the reasons.

The author is critical of the proposed name change from Lake Calhoun to its original Dakota name, Bde Maka Ska (or Mde Maka Ska). Here are four examples of how the Op/Ed embodies white privilege.

#1: White voices matter most: The author, a CEO of  a venture capital group, starts out by telling us he talked to his “Lake Calhoun” neighbors to gauge their feelings about the name Bde Maka Ska. As he describes it, he polled  “virtually every homeowner who lives directly along Lake Calhoun, plus another couple hundred neighbors who live within a few blocks.”

The result? Some 80 percent were for keeping the name Lake Calhoun. The underlying premise here is that the voices that matter most are those who live closest to the Lake, those who are predominantly wealthy and white. They see themselves as entitled to preferential treatment. Did the author think it was important to talk to anyone but his immediate neighbors, say some Dakota people? Apparently not. Apparently their opinions do not matter.

The author says his neighbors “were overwhelmingly disgusted that public officials were spending all of this time and energy on the lake renaming issue when there are so many other pressing problems facing the community that need to be addressed.” This world view ignores the fact that people in other parts of the city might have different pressing issues which are equally valid for the city’s consideration. Continue reading

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Public Art Honoring Cloud Man, Indigenous History, Planned Near Bde Maka Ska, Artists Selected

As the controversy over the installation and deconstruction of Scaffold in the Walker Sculpture Garden starts to settle, here’s an art project that celebrates Dakota history here in Minneapolis — their homeland.

A new pubic art project and gathering place is being planned to honor Mahpiya Wicasta/Cloud Man and reveal and celebrate the history of Heyata Otunwe, a village located on Bde Maka Ska from 1829-1839. (Bde Maka Ska is the original name for Lake Calhoun, and only recently has been restored.)

Last week, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board and the City of Minneapolis’ Art in Public Places program announced the artists selected to create the public art for this space.

  • Angela Two Stars – Descendant of Cloud Man (Mahpiya Wicasta), member of Sisseton Wahpeton Sioux Tribe, born and raised on the Lake Traverse reservation of Sisseton, SD. Currently lives in East Lansing, MI. Graduate of Kendall College of Art and Design in Grand Rapids, MI with a BFA in Drawing and Printmaking.
  • Mona Smith – Visual and multimedia artist of Dakota heritage. Currently lives in Minneapolis. Artist lead and co-founder of Healing Place Collaborative, Owner of Allies: Media/Art, past program coordinator for the National Indian AIDS Media Consortium, and creator of the Bdote Memory Map.
  • Sandy Spieler – Visual artist. Currently lives in Minneapolis. Founder and director of the annual May Day Parade and Ceremony at Powderhorn Park, 30-year advocate for issues pertaining to water, and recipient of a Bush Foundation Leadership Fellowship.

The design theme is “Story Awakening;” the goal is to honor and educate visitors about the broader history and culture of the Dakota and other Indigenous peoples who frequented and resided in this area over time.

Mahpiya Wicasta/Cloud Man’s Village was on the southeast corner of Bde Maka Ska. An early map shows the village as extending slightly north of present day West 34th Street, south into current Lakewood Cemetery, and east past Fremont Avenue, according to a Park Board document.

The artists and design team will share concepts with the public this fall.

For more information:

Here is an excerpt on Mahpiya Wicasta/Cloud Man, excerpted with permission from Gwen Westerman and Bruce White’s book: Mni Sota Makoce: Land of the Dakota.

The Southwest Journal ran a piece titled: Lakeside art to honor Cloud Man Village.

Here is the Park Board’s community engagement plan and different concepts for site development for this project.

For more information about this public art project, contact Ann Godfrey. For the full announcement about the artists selection process, click here.

Minneapolis Park Board Moves Ahead on Bde Maka Ska Public Art Project

bde_maka_ska_historic_village_locationThe Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board has issued a call for artists to submit ideas for a pubic art project on the southeastern side of Bde Maka Ska (Lake Calhoun) that would “celebrate the history and culture of the Dakota and Native American people and honor Mahpiya Wicasta (Cloud Man) and Heyata Otunwe (Village to the Side).” It has set informational meetings for the public and interested artists.
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Recommendations Advanced to Restore the Name Bde Maka Ska to Lake Calhoun; Fort Snelling Community Conversations

Bde Maka Ska
Bde Maka Ska

The lake we now call Lake Calhoun would return to its original Dakota name, Bde Maka Ska (White Earth Lake) under recommendations forwarded by a key citizens committee to the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board. Those recommendations also propose creating an interpretative area on the south shore of Bde Maka Ska to commemorate Cloudman’s Village, the Dakota settlement that existed prior to the arrival of European settlers.

If the Park Board approves the name restoration, it would still need approval by the Hennepin County Board and go through a process involving the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Healing Minnesota Stories and the Saint Paul Interfaith Network (SPIN) have gone on record in support of the name restoration.

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Upcoming Events in Native Film, Theater, Literature, Pow Wows, Food and Dialogue

Happy Spring! April is blooming with many learning opportunities, in Native film, theater, Pow Wows and talks. Here are a dozen to choose from (starting with April Eve).

Thursday, March 31: Settler Colonialism and Justice After Indigenous Genocide. “This presentation will discuss Indigenous erasure as an inherent part of Settler colonialism, and Settler colonialism as an ongoing phenomenon in Minnesota – one that brings the genocide of Dakota Peoples out of the past and into the present: as acts of non-recognition, denial, assimilation, and marginalization,” according to the Facebook announcement.

  • East Side Freedom Library, 1105 Greenbrier Street, St. Paul, 7 p.m.

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Panel Recommends Restoring “Bde Maka Ska” Name, Dropping “Lake Calhoun” In Other News: Climate Change Forces Tribal Relocation; Omaha Tribe Wins in U.S. Supreme Court

The Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) for the Lake Calhoun restoration plan overwhelmingly supported restoring the Dakota name “Bde Maka Ska” to Lake Calhoun. The vote was 15-4 with one abstaining Thursday night. The recommendation will be included in a larger report that will be presented to the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board.

Restoring the name will be a long process, including stops at Hennepin County and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. But Thursday’s action is an important first step.

CAC members Carly Bad Heart Bull and Tracy Nordstrom led the effort supporting the name restoration. In a media release, they said: Continue reading

Inspiration and Action: An Awesome Native Youth Music Video and an Important Name Change

Before getting to an important ask for citizen engagement, we offer this amazingly upbeat music video from Native youth  of the Grassy Narrows First Nation. The song is called It Feels Like Home to Me and it will be the best five minutes of your day.

OK, now that you watched that, here is a way to help the Dakota people reclaim their home in a small way. The Citizens Advisory Committee of the Harriet Calhoun Master Planning Process is holding a hearing tomorrow, Thursday, March 24, to consider a proposal to officially change the name of Lake Calhoun — which currently honors white supremacist and slaveholder John C. Calhoun — and restore its original Dakota name, Bde Maka Ska.

The meeting is 7:30 p.m. at the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board headquarters building, 2117 West River Road. There will be a limited amount of time for public testimony. This is an important step in the process of officially changing the name of the lake. Please come and add your presence.

For more information, see the Facebook page for the Bde Maka Ska Name Reclamation Community. Also see the March 8 article in The Circle titled: Reclaiming Bde Maka Ska for future generations.

In a related matter, you are invited to attend the next session of the Bde Maka Ska Community Conversations Project. This group has met for several sessions to discuss ways that the proposed name change doesn’t just stop with a name change, and includes changes in the culture and educational opportunities around Bde Maka Ska.

The next meeting is Saturday, April 9, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the First Universalist Church, 3400 Dupont Avenue South.  Please come if you can; all are welcome.