Roseville looks to pay for input on changing name of Pocahontas Park

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Roseville looks to pay for input on changing name of Pocahontas Park
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The city of Roseville wants to rename Pocahontas Park and is prepared to pay select American Indians for their input.

Roseville is renaming Pocahontas Park because the Pocahontas story is historically inaccurate, raises stereotypes and is offensive to some. Also, Pocahontas has no direct ties to Minnesota or its current or past Native populations, city officials say. (Nick Ferraro / Pioneer Press)

The parks and recreation commission has been considering a name change since fall 2020, when high schooler Andrew Kim, who was serving as a parks youth commissioner, told members “he had heard some concerns about the appropriateness of the name,” said Matthew Johnson, Rose­ville’s assistant director of parks and recreation.

The commission undertook a community engagement process, and “the vast majority of comments that we received were in favor of changing the name,” parks commissioner Michelle Lenhart told the city council Monday.

The Pocahontas story popularized by Disney “is inaccurate and contains stereotypes” that are harmful to American Indians, the city says on a webpage summarizing the comments it received. It also notes that Pocahontas had no ties to Minnesota land or its tribes.

At a joint meeting with the city council this week, parks commissioners recommended paying a stipend for American Indians to participate in the renaming process. The council was open to the idea and directed the commission to continue working on the name change.

The Metropolitan Urban Indian Directors group recommended establishing a committee made up of American Indian groups and individuals and providing a stipend “to honor their time and their expertise in helping to rename the park,” Lenhart said.

Commissioner Darrell Baggenstoss said the payment is no different from when the city hires consultants for their professional guidance “in any other work we do, whether it’s in the city, or in schools or other places like that.”

He said the final product would be “a legacy that stands hopefully for 100 years or more, because we did it the right way this time, which was to bring a voice to the table.”

A dollar amount was not determined at the meeting.

PARK HISTORY

The 5.7-acre neighborhood park was established in the 1960s along Pascal Street, east of Snelling Avenue and south of County Road C. A “community process” contributed to its original naming, according to city documents.

Under a city policy created in 1988, three types of names should be considered for parks: natural habitat, geographic location or appropriate nondescript terminology, such as acronyms or the joining of two words, names or activities. Only under “certain and exceptional circumstances” will consideration be given to the names of individuals, organized groups, associations or businesses.

Roseville has 32 parks, two of which are named after police officers killed in the line of duty: Howard Johnson and Bruce Russell.

The city has not set a timeline for renaming Pocahontas Park, although Council Member Julie Strahan said, “It’d be really nice if it’s not another year, so that maybe by the summer signage and stuff could be up where people could really feel like they saw that progress.”

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