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MN Supreme Court hears Bde Maka Ska name change arguments

At issue is whether the DNR had the authority to change the name from Lake Calhoun to Bde Maka Ska.

ST PAUL, Minn. — The battle over the name of a popular Minneapolis lake landed in the Minnesota Supreme Court Wednesday. 

"The DNR is asking this court to reverse the Court of Appeals [decision]  and allow the lake to stay Bde Maka Ska," said MN Solicitor General Liz Kramer in court.

At issue is whether the Department of Natural Resources had the authority to change the name from Lake Calhoun to Bde Maka Ska, a move made in January 2018 because the lake's namesake, former Vice President John Calhoun, was a defender of slavery.

RELATED: DNR to appeal Bde Maka Ska ruling

A group called 'Save Lake Calhoun' sued the DNR over the decision. In April, the state Court of Appeals ruled the DNR had overstepped its authority when making the change, so they asked the state's highest court to get involved. 

Credit: KARE

Up for debate is the interpretation of a state statute, which says the name of a body of water can be changed under statute guidelines, except if it's existed for 40 years.

"The state legislature enacted a public policy that lake names that have been used over 40 years cannot be changed without the state legislature granting additional authority," attorney Erick Kaardal, who represents Save Lake Calhoun, said in court. 

"In these two parallel statutes [you have] a county petition process that ends 40 years after the lake has been named and a DNR process that has no time limitations in that statute," said Kramer, who represents the DNR. 

No decision was made Wednesday. It could take the court months to issue an opinion on this case. 

RELATED: Mayor, Park Board push back on ruling changing Bde Maka Ska to Lake Calhoun

How we got here:

September 2015: The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board decides to give the lake a second name rather than officially change the name

May 2017: Park board votes to change the name of Lake Calhoun completely

November 2017: Hennepin County Board of Commissioners approves Lake Calhoun name change

January 2018: DNR commissioner orders the lake's name revert to its original Dakota name of Bde Maka Ska

June 2018: Federal Government signs off on the name change

April 2019: Court of Appeals rules that the DNR lacked authority to change the name of the lake

May 2019: The DNR announces they'll appeal the Court of Appeals decision. 

November 2019: The MN Supreme Court hears arguments in the case.