"Dakota" will be the name of the new middle school in Northwest Rochester, which is set to open in the fall of 2022.
The Rochester School Board announced the decision Tuesday, which was followed by a round of applause. The school, which is still under construction, is located on 65th Street Northwest, near the intersection with 55th Avenue.
Per the decision, the school will be named after the Native American tribe that, according to the school district, "lived in this area since at least the 1600s." Having a school bearing a Native American name is the latest of several steps the district has taken to recognize the history of its location in Southeast Minnesota.
At the start of every board meeting, the chair reads the following statement:
"The board acknowledges this site and all RPS sites are situated on the ancestral land of the Dakota people, and we honor the Dakota nations and the sacred land of all Indigenous peoples."
There are 11 tribal reservations and communities throughout Minnesota. Seven of those are Ojibwe, and four are Dakota.
The process of determining the name began when the School District asked students to submit name suggestions. The criteria for the nominations were that they should:
- Reflect the School District’s values and beliefs
- Represent the diversity within our community
- Instill inspiration in students
From there, the School Board whittled down the list to the five finalists, which included Dakota, Susan B. Anthony, Martin Luther King Jr., Wóksape and Unity. The public was able to then vote on their favorites among the finalists, which resulted in the winning name.
According to the School District, a student who nominated the name Dakota wrote: "I believe our new middle school should be named this to represent the first settlers of our area."
In addition to Dakota, Wóksape is also a Native American word. According to the district, it is "A word from our indigenous peoples meaning 'wisdom'. "
The new middle school is one of two new schools being added to the district through the 2019 voter-approved referendum. The other is Overland Elementary, which is also located on the outer reaches of Northwest Rochester on Overland Drive.
The selection of "Dakota" is a shift from the naming process that took place for Overland Elementary. Although the name Overland was ultimately selected, multiple board members expressed their disappointment that it didn't reflect the diversity within the community.