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Bde Maka Ska

Lake Calhoun, officially renamed Bde Maka Ska (pronounced buh-DAY muh-KAH skah) in 2018, is the largest lake in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and is a central part of the city’s Chain of Lakes. The name Bde Maka Ska means “White Earth Lake” in the Dakota language and is intended to honor the area’s original Dakota inhabitants and acknowledge the lake’s history and significance to Native American culture. The renaming of the lake was part of a broader effort to recognize indigenous place names and histories.

Recreational Activities

Bde Maka Ska is a hub for outdoor activities and community life in Minneapolis. The lake and its surrounding parkland offer a range of recreational opportunities:

  • Boating: The lake has a public boat launch and is popular for sailing, kayaking, canoeing, and stand-up paddleboarding.
  • Swimming: There are several beaches around the lake that provide a refreshing swim on hot summer days.
  • Running and Biking: A paved path encircles the lake, making it a favorite spot for cyclists, runners, and walkers. This path connects to the city’s Grand Rounds Scenic Byway, a series of interconnected parks and parkways that loop around the city.
  • Volleyball and Picnicking: Sandy areas and grassy knolls around the lake are perfect for volleyball games and picnics.
  • Fishing: Anglers can catch a variety of fish in the lake’s waters.
  • Winter Sports: In the winter, the frozen lake surface is used for ice skating, hockey, and cross-country skiing.

Environmental and Cultural Significance

Bde Maka Ska has also been the focus of environmental stewardship and cultural recognition. Efforts to improve water quality and manage invasive species help maintain the lake as a vibrant ecosystem that supports both wildlife and recreational use.

Cultural events and activities often take place around Bde Maka Ska, including indigenous cultural celebrations, which reflect the area’s history and the contemporary vitality of Native American communities in the region.

Challenges and Controversies

The renaming of Lake Calhoun to Bde Maka Ska has been met with both support and opposition, reflecting broader conversations about history, identity, and place-naming rights. Proponents of the name change argue that it rectifies historical inaccuracies and honors the Dakota people who lived in the area for centuries. Opponents have cited tradition and historical continuity in their preference for the name Lake Calhoun.

Despite these challenges, Bde Maka Ska continues to play a central role in the life of Minneapolis, serving as a place for recreation, community gatherings, and environmental education. Its significance to the city’s identity and quality of life is a reminder of how urban spaces can creatively blend historical acknowledgment with contemporary urban use.

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