DULUTH -- A 44-acre lake in northeast Minnesota could be on its way to joining the Washington NFL team in retiring a racial slur from its name.
Earlier this year, the Superior National Forest, with input from tribal partners, submitted a name change proposal to the U.S. Board of Geographic Names requesting that the name "Redskin Lake" in Lake County be changed, as it's widely considered to be offensive, according to the board's quarterly review list of name change requests.
The proposal suggests changing the name to "Memegwesi Lake," a name the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa thought would be appropriate. In some Ojibwe traditions, Memegwesi are described as "small riverbank-dwelling water spirits" said to carve symbols on rocks.
The lake, in the Superior National Forest, was named "Redskin Lake" for federal use in 1959.
Even if the name change is petitioned directly to the U.S. Board of Geographic Names, it has to go through the county first, said Pete Boulay with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. However, neither Boulay nor Lake County Administrator Matthew Huddleston were aware of anyone petitioning the name change at the county level as of Wednesday, July 15.
"Whoever wants to propose it to the county just needs the signatures and to request the public hearing," Boulay said. "The main reason to do all this is to make it as open a process as possible and so the people who live near the feature know what's going on."
People who author and work on a petition do not need to be residents of Lake County, while those who sign the petition need to be registered voters residing in the county.
If the name change proposal reaches a public hearing in front of the Lake County Board of Commissioners, Boulay or someone else with the DNR would be present to answer any questions. After a county board agrees on a geographic name change, it gets passed on to the DNR commissioner for approval before it's sent to the federal level.