Wambdi Wapaha officially becomes new name for former Lincoln Lounge

The Centennial Student Union at Minnesota State no longer contains a Lincoln Lounge. Instead, the space formerly known as the Lincoln Lounge has officially been renamed Wambdi Wapaha, which means Eagle Staff in the Dakota language.

According to Megan Heutmaker, director of American Indian affairs, the name change represents a positive step forward for MSU.

“This is the first space at MSU Mankato that is intentionally named after Dakota people, recognizing the Dakota community here and the Dakota history here,” said Heutmaker. “The name Wambdi Wapaha is important and significant for the Dakota communities and it’s a way for us to honor and respect that history.”

The name Wambdi Wapaha is also culturally significant to the Dakota people.

“If you’ve ever been at a pow wow, eagle staffs are carried in at the beginning of the event at every grand entry, and they represent families, or tribes, or clans, or pieces like that. So it’s something that goes in first with the United States flag so it’s something that’s very symbolic and important in the community, so to have that as the center of campus is an acknowledgment that this is a Dakota place in a symbolic way,” said Heutmaker.

Idman Ibrahim, a student who worked on renaming the lounge described the process whereby Wambdi Wapaha was chosen as the name.

“Mankato and the university sit on Dakota land so that’s how we got the name. We talked with elderly (Dakota) who represented the community and that’s how the name got introduced. They wanted the name to be Dakota Lounge. Then after that a professor said we could call it the Wambdi Wapaha lounge,” said Ibrahim.

For many years a statue of President Abraham Lincoln stood on the first floor of the CSU near the entrance by the food court, leading to that space becoming unofficially described as the Lincoln Lounge.

The Lincoln statue moved to the second floor of the Memorial Library in 2022. The statue was originally gifted from alumni to the college in 1926.

However Abraham Lincoln’s connection to Mankato is through the Dakota 38, which represents the largest mass execution in U.S. history. This connection made some people uncomfortable with having the Lincoln statue in the CSU.

“The statue being there, students didn’t feel comfortable passing it by everyday. I remember when I was a freshman coming to the CSU sand ome of my friends were like ‘I hate seeing that statute there’,” said Ibrahim.

“There were a number of times, whether it was current students, prospective students, students that I gave tours to, students that my students gave tours to, that were like, why do you have a Lincoln statue in this space, why is this called the Lincoln Lounge? Given the history here in Mankato, people would often question ‘why is this here?’” said Heutmaker. “We’ve had student groups for a number of years request that the statue be moved.”

According to Heutmaker the name Wambdi Wapaha was suggested by Glenn Wasicuna, MSU’s Dakota language instructor.

The correct pronunciation of Wambdi Wapaha, according to the Centennial Student Union Blog is “wam-BA-dee WA-pa-ha.”

Header Photo: The space formerly known as the Lincoln Lounge has officially been renamed Wambdi Wapaha, which means Eagle Staff in the Dakota language. (Dominic Bothe/The Reporter)

Write to Jeremy Redlien at

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