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White Earth hopes to put Ojibwe language on lake signs along the highway

An example of the road signs White Earth would like to place along county roads in Becker County that include the Ojibwe lake names along with the English translation. SUBMITTED PHOTO

White Earth is attempting to bring a little culture and education to both Native Americans and anyone traveling county roads in Becker County.

White Earth Cultural Coordinator Merlin Deegan said that it is through a grant that the reservation can help bring “more culture within the day to day” lives of young Native Americans by posting Ojibwe signs along the highway, identifying lakes in part of the county. With the grant, there would be no cost to the county for the project.

“Our children, they need to see their language, hear it,” he said.

Deegan said the grant will fund the signage, and then the tribe will take care of installation and maintenance of the signs. He said he will work with the county to have the signs placed in the right spot and look similar to the existing county signs.

He also asked that the Ojibwe version be printed above the English version of the lake names. For example, “Gaaodooskwaani Gamaag” would appear above “Elbow Lake.”

That request was met with some opposition.

Becker County Commissioner Ben Grimsley expressed concern Tuesday at a board meeting that people might mistakenly think the land is tribal land. He said the Ojibwe-signed land may confuse some people and would be a problem especially when it comes to hunting on the land and such.

He said he would rather see the English translation on top as well.

“I am willing to work with you in any way, shape or form to do this in a positive way,” Deegan said.

While the county didn’t deny the request, they asked Deegan to come back with a map of where the tribe would like to place the signs and a sample of what one would look like.