Dakota-English language road sign unveiled in Lower Sioux Indian Community
WILLMAR, Minn. — The first of four Dakota-English language road signs was unveiled on Monday, July 29, 2019, by the Lower Sioux Indian Community on County Road 24, near Reservation Highway 5 in Morton.
The welcome sign is one of four dual-language signs going up in the Lower Sioux Indian Community, and it designates the west boundary. An identical welcome sign will be installed at the north, east, and south community boundaries, as well, informing all of the Dakota language homeland name before European settlement. The welcome sign sits six feet off the ground and reaches 10 feet into the sky. It measures twelve feet across and weighs about 200 pounds. And as impressive and attractive as it is in appearance, it is so much more than a sign.
“It’s something for our members to be proud of, our children, our elders, all of us,” said Lower Sioux Indian Community President Robert Larsen, “that back in 2012, the leadership at the time saw how devastated our language was for us, so they passed a resolution that said our Dakota language is in peril and we need to do whatever we can to bring it back.”
In addition to starting language programs, the Lower Sioux began working with Indian Affairs and the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) to develop road signs in the Dakota language. The concept and program took years to progress and fine-tune, however, the end result is beautiful. The sign symbolizes language preservation, a sense of community and homeland, as well as awareness and partnership.
Although the four signs are not owned by the state and they are not located on state highways, MnDOT is in the business of making road signs and is also committed to developing government-to-government relationships through partnerships with sovereign nations. The Lower Sioux Indian Community also partnered with Redwood County to bring the signs from an idea to a reality on the Redwood County roads.
“When we come home here, we’re going to see that sign and have some self-pride,” said Larsen, following the unveiling, pointing to the sign and addressing the roadside gathering of community members, MnDOT and Redwood County representatives and local media. “I’m hoping that everyone’s going to take a piece of that and just smile when they see it and build more relationships with everyone that comes here. Thank you for being here, this is important to us.”
For information about the MnDOT Dakota Language Signing Program, visit mndot.gov/mntribes/language-culture.