Correct Pronunciation: wam-BA-dee WA-pa-ha
Wambdi Wapaha, which is Dakota for Eagle Staff, is the new name for the Centennial Student Union space formerly known as the Lincoln Lounge.
The name was officially adopted at Minnesota State Mankato’s recent Meet & Confer following the recommendation by the Campus Named Spaces Review Committee. The new name was selected over the committee’s earlier recommendation to rename the space the Dakota Lounge.
“Naming the space in honor of the Dakota people using their language aligns with the current mission, vision, values and diversity and inclusion goals of Minnesota State University, Mankato, and is a stronger way to honor the Dakota people than ‘Dakota Lounge,'” the committee stated in its written recommendation to President Edward Inch. “It also supports the Naming of Places or Landmarks on Campus Policy priority of naming spaces with racial equity in mind.”
In the Dakota tradition, the Eagle Staff is a ceremonial staff adorned with the feathers of the sacred eagle. It represents a connection to the spiritual world and is used to carry prayers and blessings. It also signifies leadership and honor and is often carried by tribal leaders at gatherings or during the Grand Entry at wacipis or other ceremonial celebrations.
The CSU main level lounge was informally called the Lincoln Lounge because of the presence of a statue of Abraham Lincoln. The statue has been a fixture on campus since 1926 when it was gifted to the school by alumni following the 1922 Main Hall fire that destroyed most of the college’s memorabilia.
While historians consistently rank him as the best president, Lincoln is part of a dark past for the Dakota Nation. In 1862, the Dakota faced hardships complicated by food shortages and broken treaties. Frustrated warriors rose up against southern Minnesota settlers. Deaths on both sides resulted in what became known as the Dakota War of 1862.
A military commission condemned 303 Dakota warriors. Lincoln later commuted all but 38 who were hanged in Mankato on Dec. 26, 1862. It remains the largest mass execution in U.S. history.
Since December 2005, a band of horseback riders annually travel from Lower Brule, S.D. to Mankato as part of the Dakota 38 ride commemorating the 1862 hanging. A rider carrying an Eagle Staff leads the 300-mile procession.
After standing in the CSU since 1978, the Lincoln statue was moved to the Memorial Library in Summer 2022 where it is the centerpiece for an informative display entitled the Lincoln Study: A Place for Dialogue.
In January 2023, the Student Government passed a resolution to name the CSU lounge in honor of the University’s indigenous students and the campus sitting on Dakota land.
“This university has made a commitment to Equity 2030 and closing opportunity gaps among students,” said Student Government Vice President Idman Ibrahim, who helped lead the renaming effort. “In light of that commitment, acceptance and input, implementation of this proposal would show students that this commitment is real and is one step closer to Equity 2030.”