The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board will explore a possible name change for Sibley Park over its namesake's involvement in the deaths of Native Americans.
Spanning two city blocks at Longfellow Avenue and 40th Street East, the park is named after Henry Sibley, Minnesota's first governor. He also commanded troops in the U.S.-Dakota War, establishing a military commission in 1862 that sentenced 303 Dakota men to death — 38 of them were hanged in Mankato.
The push to change the park's name follows a wave of similar decisions to rename Minnesota schools, parks and lakes recognizing historical figures with questionable pasts. Last summer, Henry Sibley High School in Mendota Heights was renamed Two Rivers. Bde Maka Ska replaced Lake Calhoun, recognizing the Dakota name for the lake instead of former Vice President John C. Calhoun, who owned slaves in the South.
Sanford Middle School students urged Minneapolis park officials to consider a name change for Sibley Park in 2016. Park Board Commissioner Steffanie Musich, who represents the district, said she has heard from constituents wanting to ditch the Sibley name for nearly a decade. Neighbors have been canvassing during soccer games at the park to gain support for a change.
A 2022 Park Board survey found community members favored a new name that honors the Dakota people.
Park Board staff said they have received feedback and guidance from Dakota representatives and the Tribal Historic Preservation Office. One suggestion from a neighborhood focus group is "ć̣anté tiza wiyan" which means "strong-hearted women" in Dakota.
Park Board Commissioner Billy Menz said a Sibley Park name change is long overdue.
"We have let this name be iterated into this community, people have to repeat the name Sibley all the time, and it has pain. It elicits negative feelings in people who don't look like me," he said at a recent meeting.
Once a name is nominated, there will be two public hearings giving the public an opportunity to comment before the Park Board votes.