Did you see yesterday's paper?
Did you see the one from December 21, 1890?
You're going to want both handy, if, for some reason, you feel compelled to wade into the dumbest debate/fundraiser/lawsuit/reverse-racism-whining in Minneapolis. Lake Calhoun will be called Bde Maka Ska, and everyone will be fine.
You wouldn't know that if you saw page A12 of Thursday's Star Tribune, where a half-page ad informs readers of a "Legal action taken to protect historic Lake Calhoun." Let's get this part out of the way: The "legal action" that has been "taken" is the formation of a GoFundMe page, where money is being collected to pay a "prominent law firm," which will "file an injunction to prevent the [Department of Natural Resources] from moving forward with the name change," adding: "We are gearing up for a fierce legal battle."
Who's this "we"? Hard to say: The GoFundMe and the Star Tribune ad use plural words like "we" and "us" to refer to the organization, as does SaveLakeCalhoun.com, though there's only one name listed -- Adam Smith -- and it appears to be an alias. Here's "Adam" having a little conversation with himself on Facebook.
An email to Adam asking about the SaveLakeCalhoun.com campaign was not returned, and --
BREAKING NEWS: Both the GoFundMe and the Star Tribune ad are based on some bullshit.
From the GoFundMe page:
BREAKING NEWS: In 1890, “Father of Minneapolis Parks” and famed 19th century Minnesota historian, Charles Loring, documented to the park board commissioners’ meeting that Lake Calhoun was not named after statesman John C. Calhoun, but in fact, was actually named after Lieutenant Calhoun of the U.S. Army. SOURCE: Minneapolis Star Tribune, Dec 21, 1890. www.newspapers.com/image/179966769 (Now, we're extra pissed off.)
This last line is used on the GoFundMe page, but does not appear in the Star Tribune ad copy.
A reference to this "fact" does appear in an 1890 editorial in the Star Tribune (or Daily Tribune, as it was known then). You can find a full reprinting, circa 2011, of that editorial here... and you can also find the Star Tribune explicitly disavowing its own reporting: "The writer incorrectly reported that Lake Calhoun was named for a 'Lieutenant Calhoun of early day.'"
In a subsequent story, also about the same December 1890 editorial, the Star Tribune revealed that the piece's central fact -- that Lake Calhoun had been renamed 'Lake Mendoza,' a bowdlerized version of another Native name, Lake Med'oza -- was wrong. That name change never happened.
In the very same sentence it says Calhoun was named for a U.S. Army man, and not a racist statesman from South Carolina, the 1890 editorial adds that Minneapolis' Lake Harriet had been named for this mysterious other Calhoun's wife. All other available sources -- including the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board -- say that lake was named for Harriet Lovejoy, later Harriet Leavenworth, wife of Henry Leavenworth, a U.S. Army Colonel who, in 1819, brought the first troops to what later became Fort Snelling. Leavenworth was dispatched there on the orders of his boss, the Secretary of War: some guy called John C. Calhoun.
So, the Star Tribune doesn't stand by this story's claim about Lake Calhoun; the reason for the story itself is wrong; and the very next fact in the story is wrong.
"In other words," GoFundMe continues, "we Minnesotans have been duped into an inflammatory and false narrative about Lake Calhoun."
Some people are, indeed, being duped. As of Friday morning, nearly $5,000 had been collected for the "Save Lake Calhoun" legal defense fund; one person on Friday gave $1,000. If "Adam Smith" really has retained a "prominent law firm" to fight the name change, this cumulative amount should afford them (or him) several hours of excellent representation, not to mention complimentary office coffee.
The ad says, "Lake Calhoun is the first victim of what will be a tsunami of extremist name-change advocacy." Maybe? If so, let's hope future such debates at least summon a worthy opposition.
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