Archive for the ‘Bde Maka Ska’ Tag

Lake (White Out) Parkways, East and West

With the park board holding a public hearing this week on changing the names of all parkways with Calhoun in the name, I thought I might make one last suggestion to simplify everything going forward.

Instead of changing the names of East and West Lake Calhoun Parkways and West Calhoun Boulevard, perhaps we can serve multiple purposes if we just “white out” the “Calhoun”.

One, it gets rid of “Calhoun”, which is usually given as the primary objective of the name changes. (The other objective, to honor Dakota history at the lake, was accomplished when the park board changed the name of the lake itself to one of its historical Dakota names, Maka Ska.)

Two, it leaves a “blank” or white space on signs—I mean we literally paint over “Calhoun” on road signs and park signs—which invites questions and comments such as, “What the…?” or “Mommy-Daddy-Caregiver why is there white paint on that sign?” Many of the objections to changing the name from Calhoun to Maka Ska have to do with deleting a part of our history that we should acknowledge and confront instead of hiding. Some have said that keeping Calhoun provides an important teaching opportunity. I agree in principle. Visibly defacing or obliterating Calhoun’s name, however, might provide the same opportunity for discussion because it would invite queries without appearing to honor John C. Calhoun. “There’s something happenin’ here, but what it is ain’t exactly clear.” (A white space on road signs might also invite graffiti, but no solution I’ve heard is perfect.)

Neither keeping Calhoun nor replacing it with Maka Ska can achieve both those results.

Explanation for younger readers: What is white out? It was a fast-drying, white, opaque liquid applied by a tiny brush to places in typewritten documents that required corrections. By applying white out to a word with a typo one could then type over the whited out word instead of retyping a whole page. It had nothing to do with snow or blizzards or everyone attending a basketball game wearing white shirts.

Despite so much waterfront in Minneapolis, there is no East or West Lake Parkway or West Boulevard now, so whiting out Calhoun on those three parkways wouldn’t create confusion with any existing streets. Whiting out Calhoun also could avoid the expense of buying new signs and throwing the present ones into a landfill. Given how few intersections there are on the Lake (White Out) Parkways (by my count twenty or fewer), my guess is one or two cans of Kilz spray paint would do the job. Bring a brush if you don’t like aerosols. Would take a couple hours at most. Best if the paint is not reflective like the rest of the street signs so our history is hinted at by a non-reflecting hole on the sign even in the dark.

Address changes for homes on those streets would be easier too with the white out solution. People with present East or West Calhoun Parkway addresses could simply cross out or white out the Calhoun on their mail or legal addresses until the change takes hold in the public mind. The only people who really need to know street addresses—Amazon and its delivery subsidiaries—could easily sort that out. Google should also be alerted to update their maps so Uber drivers won’t get confused. (Drivers could tell the story of the white out to inquisitive travelers from St. Paul or Edina.)

Finally, “white out” as a metaphor should appeal to those who believe that is what has happened figuratively to our historical record.

Worth a thought.

Waterfront Tour

Preserve Minneapolis tells me that anyone who wants to join our waterfront tour may be without a seat on the bus if they wait much longer. Our tour of many Minneapolis waterfronts begins at the Parade parking lot next to the Sculpture Garden on August 17 at 10 a.m. One part of our tour will take us along East Lake (White Out) Parkway enroute to Minnehaha Falls, then back via West River Parkway and other waterfronts to Parade by noon. To learn more and reserve a seat click here.  The fee goes to Preserve Minneapolis, not me.

David Carpentier Smith

 

Minneapolis Park Names Added and Reconsidered

In light of rekindled debates over park names, prompted by the Appeals Court decision rescinding the name change of Lake Calhoun to Bde Maka Ska, the park board’s vote to alter the process for changing parkway names, and debate at the University of Minnesota over changing building names, I revisited my compilation of people commemorated in Minneapolis parks.

I just added two names that were designated since I originally compiled that list.

  • Annie Young: the meadow in Riverside Park was named to honor the former park commissioner who died in 2018.
  • Mary Merrill: the headquarters building of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, previously unnamed, was named after the former park superintendent and park commissioner, known then as Mary Merrill Anderson, who also served as the acting superintendent in 2018.

Changing Names

The park board suspended its naming rules to approve both names, which had also been done in recent years to name park baseball fields for Rod Carew, Frank Quilici and Sid Hartman. Previous board policy had prevented naming park properties for people still living or for a couple years after they died. The policy was refined after controversy in 1964 over the naming of Todd Park across Portland Avenue from Diamond Lake. George Todd was a park commissioner dying of cancer at the time. The objective was to honor him while still living for his work in creating the park . The policy was also suspended in 1968 to rename Nicollet Field for Martin Luther King, without a waiting period, shortly after his murder.

The park board also, with little discussion, has altered the process for changing parkway names. Continue reading

G’day Maka Ska, G’bye Calhoun?

Efforts to eradicate the name Lake Calhoun and replace it with Bde Maka Ska have generated a great deal of discussion and passion on many sides. The usage of the recommended new name and its meaning and pronunciation have been badly muddled, however, which confuses the issues unnecessarily.

Let me, a non-Dakota speaker, try to clarify. Bde Maka Ska is one of the Dakota names for the lake that was named Lake Calhoun by white surveyors or soldiers sometime before 1820. We have been told often that the term translates as White Earth Lake. So far, so good. But let’s break it down further.

Translation
Bde: lake
Maka: earth
Ska: white

Pronunciation
Bde: The “e”, as in Spanish, is more like “ay” as in day. Hear Crocodile Dundee saying “G’day, mate.” Say b’day like an Australian caricature says “g’day” — rather than b-day which suggests a pronunciation more like a fixture in a French bathroom. G’day. B’day. Closer to one syllable than two.
Makaska: I’ve cheated and put the two words together, which to my ear is how Dakota speakers pronounce them. All a’s are pronounced as in “Ma” for mother. Accent the middle syllable, as if you were saying “my Costco.” MaCostco. Makaska.
This is the easy part and should not have any bearing on the merits of changing the name. It’s not hard to say, so let’s not use that excuse. How do you know how to pronounce “Isles” in “Lake of the Isles” with two of five letters silent? You learned — and thought nothing of it. Not difficult.

Usage
This is a little trickier. I don’t know Dakota patterns of usage, but to my view the Minneapolis park board’s master plan entitled Calhoun/Bde Maka Ska-Harriet, which recommended the name change, is confusing. If we are dropping “lake” from Lake Calhoun and Lake Harriet, in this context shouldn’t we also drop “bde” from Bde Maka Ska. Otherwise it would be Lake Lake White Earth.

In other words, Bde Maka Ska replaces Lake Calhoun, not just Calhoun. Maybe Dakota grammarians would box your ears if you said the equivalent of, “I’m going to bike around Maka Ska this afternoon.” Maybe in Dakota “lake” or “bde” must always be part of a lake name. But if the “bde” doesn’t have to bde there, couldn’t the park board have approved renaming the lake “Maka Ska”? I ask in part because I haven’t heard any objection to the word “lake” itself, although Tony Lake, Lake Street, and Veronica Lake all have had detractors. (I’ve never seen her right eye!)

It matters because any use of Calhoun alone then is unaffected, which is a bit exasperating, because that’s the objectionable part. So on the parkway signs that say East (or West) Calhoun Parkway it was incorrect to add Bde Maka Ska, as was done last year. Only signs that say “Lake Calhoun” should have been changed. Even the vandals of signs at Lake Calhoun last year didn’t know what they were doing when they replaced only Calhoun, but not Lake, with Bde Maka Ska. Pretty ignorant activism.

I raise this issue primarily for clarification. We know some lakes around the world by their indigenous names, Loch Ness comes to mind, and others have retained names given by non-English speakers, such as Lac qui Parle in western Minnesota (not just a lake but a county), a French translation of the Dakota words “lake that speaks”. (Was “bde” part of that Dakota name?)

Something to Consider

So… how should we treat Bde Maka Ska? Wouldn’t it be easier to discuss the merits of a name change if we said we wanted to change the name from Lake Calhoun to Lake Maka Ska? Dakota and Ojibwe names for lakes and places abound in Minnesota and no one seems to have a problem with that. Yet I’ve never seen any other lake named Bde Anything. There are many a “mni” — Dakota for “water” — anglicized to Minnetonka, Minnesota, Minnehaha, but not a “bde” that I know of.

I suspect that some people opposed to renaming the lake get hung up on “bde” for “lake”. It’s a diversion from the real issues, which are, “Calhoun or not?” And, “If not, what?” Lake Maka Ska might eventually be adopted by those who don’t speak Dakota. Bde Maka Ska will take decades longer — if the bde isn’t dropped quickly anyway.

Where Does the Name Come From?

Knowing a bit of the history of Lake Calhoun since 1820, I’m also curious how the lake got the name “White Earth”.  We know that parts of the shoreline, especially on the south and west, were quite marshy by the mid- to late-1800s and had to be filled eventually to hold parkways. But we also know from dredging reports that the beach on the north side at the site of the bath house built in 1912 was created or greatly augmented by considerable dredging  from sand found on the lake bottom.

Lake Calhoun aerial 1a

Lake Calhoun’s northwest shore and Bath House in late 1910s, before a parkway existed on the west side of the lake, although there is a light-colored trail or path. The north beach was mostly man-made. Photo likely taken from near the Minikahda Club. (Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board)

To my knowledge the dredging at Lake of the Isles and Cedar Lake produced little sand from those lake bottoms. Lake Harriet has never been dredged. It’s not obvious from any accounts I’ve seen of why “maka ska” or “white earth” was used to distinguish this lake from neighboring lakes in Cloud Man’s time or earlier.

Maybe a geologist could enlighten me. Were there relatively white deposits of sand in the vicinity at some point? What is the geological explanation? (For those of us who still believe in science anyway.) Were the shores of Lake Calhoun once sandy — before beaches, parkways and retaining walls?

If anyone can enlighten us about the Dakota language or can explain the park board’s garbled use of Bde Maka Ska, sometimes as a substitute for Lake Calhoun and others for Calhoun only, or can tell us about “white earth”, please do. I won’t post comments on whether we should keep or erase the Calhoun name; many other venues provide space for those arguments.

David C. Smith