• Wakanda

  • Location:

    County Road 3
    Willmar, MN 56201

The Illustrated History and Descriptive and Biographical Review of Kandiyohi County MN touches the southern boundary of Kandiyohi Township, was probably derived from the (Dakotah) word WAKANDA, which means ‘to reckon as sacred’.”

State of Minnesota lake number 34-0169 was called Wakanda, meaning “where the spirit dwells” or “spiritual place” by the native Dakotah people residing here prior to the arrival of early immigrants. My ancestors came to live on the shores of this shallow prairie lake in 1866, learning the lake name from the native people. These early pioneers did not always have a good grasp of the English language and spelling, but had good hearing and could spell phonetically. Thus, we find the name Lake Waconda written on early maps in identification of this body of water. Local people have always known this lake by the name Lake Waconda.

However, somewhere along the line the name Wagonga Lake began appearing on maps (we noticed this in the late 1980’s). My family and other local residents were unwilling to let go of the name we’d always known. Because we wanted to maintain this link – this connection to the past – and because of our appreciation for the uniqueness of this area known as a sacred place by the native people, my mother (Muriel Molenaar Felt) began a research of the lake name in historical documents.

The research continued after her death with the help of Mona Balcar Nelson of the Kandiyohi County Historical Society. Joe Circle Bear, the Upper Midwest’s Dakotah language and culture expert (Eci Noompa Charter School, Morton), provided Dakotah translations of the various references to this lake in text and on maps. Through this research, we learned that Wagonga has no meaning in the Dakotah language. Waconda was, in Joe Circle Bear’s opinion, mispelled. Joe Circle Bear asked that in reclaiming the name, we spell the name correctly – WAKANDA. Wakanda is a spiritual place or “where the spirit dwells”. Glen Yakel, DNR Waters (St. Paul), and Sam Modderman, Kandiyohi County Auditor, also supported the Dakotah spelling of Lake Wakanda.

The State of Minnesota procedure for reclaiming a lake name was provided by Skip Wright of the DNR. It was learned that a change of the official name required a petition process whereby the petitioner was required to obtain not less than fifteen signatures of residents in Kandiyohi County, MN. This petition was then submitted to the Kandiyohi County Auditor, the Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners and the State of MN Commissioner of Natural Resources.

A hearing to reclaim the lake name was scheduled for July 5, 2005 before the Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners. On motion by Harlan Madsen, 2nd by Dean Shuck, and unanimous “aye” vote, the Board of Commissioners ordered a name change from Lake Wagonga to LAKE WAKANDA. The difference is slight but SIGNIFICANT.

On August 29, 2005, Gene Merriam, Commissioner of the MN Department of Natural Resources, officially approved the name change for DNR Lake I.D. 34-169 to LAKE WAKANDA. The reclaimed name was then officially recorded by the Kandiyohi County Recorder according to M.S. 83A.04.

The final step was the U. S. Board on Geographic Names at their October 12, 2005 meeting in Portland, Oregon. Mr. Glen Yakel personally appeared at this meeting on our behalf where, following a discussion on the accuracy of the research and reconfirmation of the Wakanda spelling by well-known linguist R. William Bright, the change was approved by unanimous vote. The notice of entering the name into the Nation’s official geographic names repository was received in November, 2005.

So, we have now reclaimed our LAKE WAKANDA – “spiritual place” or “where the spirit dwells”: an honor to the Dakotah people, a strengthened link to the past for future generations, preserved as a Kandiyohi County Historical Site #308, and a name spelled correctly.

Reclaiming Our Lake Wakanda Name by Marilee Felt Druskin was published in the Kandiyohi County
Historical Society newsletter, KandiExpress Issue August 2007.

Where:  The marker is located 5 miles south of US 12 on County Road 8, then 1 mile west on County Road 3.