What’s in a Name? — Lake Koronis, Minnesota – The North Star Reports – by Zach Friederichs. Sponsored by The College of St. Scholastica and The Middle Ground Journal

What’s in a Name? — Lake Koronis, Minnesota – The North Star Reports – by Zach Friederichs. Sponsored by The College of St. Scholastica and The Middle Ground Journal

lakekoronis zach
[Lake Koronis – Photo taken by Ann Friederichs]

A name is arguably the best way to identify a person, place or thing. They are used as a concrete point of reference and save lots of time and effort in comparison to using a long list of possible adjectives that could be used to arrive to the same point.

Names don’t just pop up out of thin air, they are generally assigned by someone or some group who have encountered the assignee first and have felt the need to give a label. It seems fair enough to me to let the discoverer call the shots just as your parents called the shot upon your first few weeks of life. Although, this has been known to cause conflict, especially when the name is offensive or the nature of the discovery is unofficial.

A name that is of interest to me is Lake Koronis. It is a 3,000-acre, freshwater, glacial-made lake located in Stearns County in the Southwestern part of Minnesota. It is very unusual in that it has three islands going straight cross its center. This name is important to me because I was raised in a small house located on its shores and spent much of my childhood playing and swimming in its clear waters.

There is some controversy surrounding the origins of the name of the lake which involves two competing theories. The most widely held theory draws from an account of an Indian maiden named Koronis who leapt off of a high edge on one of the islands in order to escape a marriage she did not want. The second theory refers to the shape made by the three islands as a crown, which is translated from the Greek word korones. Needless to say, the first theory is a bit more exciting and acknowledges the presence of the Dakota Indians in the area. The Dakota Indians were said to migrate up the North Crow River by canoe during the spring season in search of resources after spending their winters in the Mankato area. Later, European explorers settled the area in the late 19th century and the Dakota Indians were forced out.

The name Lake Koronis has always acted as a word that describes my home and a beautiful place for vacationers to spend the summer. I think a lot of history and economic development would be lost if the name were to be changed. It may be simple but it has served as a point of reference and description for well over a century. It would take lots of time and effort to create a new legacy to accompany a new name.

[From Professor Liang’s Spring 2015 World History II class.]

What’s In a Name? World History students at our host institution, The College of St. Scholastica, were assigned the task of researching the name of a person or place with a personal connection to their lives, looking into the history of the name, the motives behind its use, and the significance of the name in the past and present. Students selected a variety of names including hometowns near and far and family names. Whether it was a name they’d always wondered about or one long taken for granted, their findings were often unexpected. Even when the name itself was not found to be especially meaningful a recurring theme emerged of increased awareness and respect for those who came before and the value of knowing their stories. Kathryn Marquis Hirsch, Managing Editor, The North Star Reports.

Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to write for The North Star Reports — HLIANG (at) css.edu

See also, our Facebook page with curated news articles at http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports

The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, The College of St. Scholastica and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal’s online learning community and outreach program with undergraduate and K-12 classes around the world. The North Star Reports has flourished since 2012. For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at:


The North Star Reports publishes edited essays from our students, particularly from those who are currently stationed, or will soon be stationed abroad. Students have reported from Mongolia, Southern China, Shanghai, Norway, northeastern China, Micronesia, The Netherlands, Tanzania, Ireland, England, Finland, Russia, and Haiti. We also have students developing reviews of books, documentaries, and films, and analysis of current events from around the world. We will post their dispatches, and report on their interactions with the North Star Reports students and teachers. We thank The Department of History and Politics and the School of Arts and Letters of The College of St. Scholastica for their generous financial support for The North Star Reports and The Middle Ground Journal.

Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief, The North Star Reports; Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal; Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica, Duluth, MN, USA

(c) 2012-present The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy http://NorthStarReports.org ISSN: 2377-908X The NSR is sponsored by The College of St. Scholastica and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. See Masthead for our not-for-profit educational open- access policy. K-12 teachers, if you are using these reports for your classes, please contact editor-in-chief Professor Liang at HLIANG (at) css.edu



Filed under History, North Star Student Editors, Professor Hong-Ming Liang, Professor Liang's Classes

12 responses to “What’s in a Name? — Lake Koronis, Minnesota – The North Star Reports – by Zach Friederichs. Sponsored by The College of St. Scholastica and The Middle Ground Journal

  1. Roman Schnobrich

    Anyone who reads this essay will think twice about the origins of their name, which is great and needs to happen once in awhile. The essay as a whole makes me realize that if I ever have a child, I would like to give them a unique name, like mine. However, I need a meaningful name– when I’m asked about my name, I have no captivating story to share about how I got it. It’s interesting that there are two myths about how the lake near your home got its name, and how we often end up believing the more abstract of the two choices.

    • Maria Nowak

      This is a very interesting story. I think it is very interesting to see where the names of people, places, or things come from. For instance, the story behind how one gets their name can be fascinating. Sometimes, yes, it is boring, but other times the meaning behind it can be very beautiful. I also find it very interesting how the name of certain places/locations can trigger a memory or feeling within an instant. The association between the name of that place with the feelings we have from the memories there is very powerful. When this occurs it doesn’t always have to be pleasant memories, but a memory nonetheless. Our name gives us a sense of identity; it helps define who we are. When we think of all the other potential names in the world we could have been known as, maybe our lives would have turned out differently? Think of the nicknames we all received growing up that we are very thankful are no longer used around us. Did these experiences not help to share who we are? Thanks for sharing your story!

  2. Kaytlin Hintz-Knopf

    I grew up on an island in Lake Superior and in school we always learned about, not just world history, but the history of the island and it’s people. That is something I feel we do not do enough of in the world. Where you are from shapes who you are as a person on many levels. This article really shows that.

  3. Connor

    It’s very interesting how there are two theories to this lake’s name. One as a descriptive name, and the other as a culturally significant name, even if it is a legend. It really makes one consider the importance of names to different cultures, especially in Minnesota, where there seems to be a lot of Native American influence in many of our names.

  4. This is intriguing to learn about. I grew up on a lake that holds an Ojibwe name, although we don’t know the exact reasoning behind it. I am curious now as to who named Lake Koronis, was it the Dakota or was it one of the settlers? The questions never end!

  5. Interesting to think about names in this way. Particularly, the legacy surrounding the lake thanks to the name. As for the theories about it, I think much could be said about the importance of origin stories. What would the consequences be if one theory was heavily favored?

  6. This was a very thought-provoking article. I actually recently spoke with a friend about the significance of names. He told me the meaning behind his name and said he wished to live up to it’s meaning. It struck me that he wanted to use his name as a driving force in his life. It is odd to think that people do not realize how important names are in life.
    When people are asked who they are, often their first response is to say their name. Isn’t that an interesting thought? Are our names what truly define us as people? Although I did not pick my own name, I could not imagine being called by a different name. I think I might have a completely different life if I was called something other than the name I possess now.
    However, that’s enough philosophical thought for one comment!
    It would seem odd to me that people would consider changing the name of the lake because of a controversy such as this. It appears to me that both versions of explanation have historical significance and give partial credit where it is due. Why change the name of the lake and wipe it’s history away completely?

  7. Rebecca Smith

    It’s so interesting how we don’t always think about the meanings of names, when there are stories and theories to go along with them. I’ve always loved learning about what names mean and the history of names, but I’ve always focused on people, not places or things. I watched a video once that questioned whether we live up to our names, or if it’s some kind of predestined thing, where we are supposed to be given the names that we have. I think the concept is an interesting thing to ponder.

  8. Carley Nadeau

    I really like how you started out this article. It really drew me in and made me want to know more. Its interesting to think about names in this way, with theories instead of an actual, known meaning. I can relate to this with my own last name, where half the family says it one way and the other half says it another. We do not know why this happened and we cannot decide what pronunciation to use, but we have our theories on how this occurred.

  9. Der Yang

    Hi Zach,
    This essay brought light to the idea of names and labeling. A person will definitely rethink about their names and origins or values. I am glad I passed this article because we are currently learning about advancements and changes in general within the US and societies. Just like your essay, things, people, and places are being named every day. Heck, one might even more than one name. It is amazing how we are all named at birth and expected to love and cherish them. Personally, I think my name is boring and short. However, I admire its meaning and the person who gave it to me. In other cases, people often gets bullied or offended from their own or other names. All in all, thank you for sharing. I hope this article provokes more people to start or continue finding out what the value of their name/s is/are.

  10. Tessa Erickson-Thoemke

    Thank you for sharing your ideas on this! Your article was very thought-provoking. I am familiar with this lake as I am from that area, so I was interested in learning the theories behind the name. I agree with you that the first theory is a bit more interesting as it includes detail of who was living in that area when the lake was named. If there is controversy around this name, do you think it will potentially be changed in the future? Another place with a recognizable name is Mesopotamia: “the world’s first complex society” (Tignor, 2018, p. 49). The name comes from the Greek meaning “land between two rivers”. This description has a purpose because the rivers surrounding the land were significant in the establishment of this society. The people used the abundant, flowing water for irrigation and “routes for transportation and communication” (p. 49). Learning about the origin of the name of a place can definitely help us better understand it’s history.

  11. Anna Becker

    Thank you for your contribution to North Star Reports, your article was a joy to read. In reflection, I took a period of time to look into the meaning of not only my name, but of various other people, places and things.
    When you brought up the potential origins of your local lake, I was drawn further into my thoughts. It was particularly interesting to me because over the past nine months, I took a long amount of time looking into one word specifically. My grandfather passed away in March and I wanted to get a tattoo in remembrance of him. I immediately knew that I wanted to get the word ‘geronimo’, as it resembled an inside joke that we had shared. The night before my appointment I dove further, pulling up Google and typing into the search bar the term that was to be permanently put on my body. What I found was unexpected, but very validating. I found that Geronimo is not necessarily a word, but a person. Geronimo was a Native American war hero who was given his name and adventurously shaped it to mean ‘go for it’ in a sense, or even ‘jump’. This was fitting in that, ironically, was how my grandfather lived his life and how he encouraged me to live mine. I also learned that Geronimo’s life came to an end at the age of 76, which was how old my grandfather was when he passed away. This investigation into the meaning behind the name Geronimo provided an overwhelming sense of validation.
    I am grateful that I have taken time to look deeper into meaning behind various names. I appreciate that your article encouraged me to do so and hopefully encourages others to do the same.
    Wonderful article and grounds for reflection Zach.
    Anna Becker

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