Iowa's first dual-language road signs added to US Highway 30 near Meskwaki Settlement

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Iowa's first dual-language road signs on U.S. Highway 30 near Tama mark where drivers cross into Meskwaki land. Iowa is now one of eight states to feature dual-language road signs.
Iowa's first dual-language road signs on U.S. Highway 30 near Tama mark where drivers cross into Meskwaki land. Iowa is now one of eight states to feature dual-language road signs.

The next time you're driving along Iowa's U.S. Highway 30 near Tama, be on the lookout for road signs that read "Meskwakiinaki."

The phrase means "Meskwaki Settlement" in the tribe's native language and marks where drivers have crossed into Meskwaki land. The road displays, featuring the Meskwaki Tribal logo, are the first dual language signs installed in the state by the Iowa Department of Transportation as a way to preserve native cultures and share the heritage with travelers, according to a release from the agency.

Iowa is now one of eight states to have dual language signs.

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The tribe’s director of language preservation, Wayne Pushetonequa, says the sign shows a priority for the Meskwaki language.

"Our language is important, it’s part of who we are," Pushetonequa said. "We should be putting it out there for people to see. The sign says, ‘This is the Land of the Meskwaki,' in our language, so it’s very appropriate for our children to see and be proud of."

The Sac & Fox Tribe of the Mississippi in Iowa, or Meskwaki Nation, which has about 1,400 enrolled tribal members, is the only federally recognized tribe in Iowa. The Meskwaki Settlement is not a reservation, but a sovereign nation, located about 3 miles northwest of Tama and about 65 miles northeast of Des Moines.

The Meskwaki were forced to leave the state in the 1840s but bought back 80 acres of Iowa land in July 1857. Today, the tribe has more than 1,450 enrolled members and owns more than 8,000 acres, primarily in Tama and Marshall counties.

The idea for a dual-language sign originated at the 2017 Tribal Summit in Tama, when Minnesota Department of Transportation officials showed examples of dual-language signs displayed in the state, Iowa DOT officials said.

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The Meskwaki Nation formally requested the new signs in 2021, and after discussions about design and locations, two signs were made. They were installed by Iowa DOT officials, with the help of about 60 Meskwaki Nation members on July 13, a national holiday for the tribal community.

"The sign helps explain to those traveling through Highway 30 in this particular area, that they are in a shared jurisdiction. One that is with the tribe and the state of Iowa," Meskwaki Nation Police Department commissioner Mark Bear said in a statement.

Virginia Barreda is a trending and general assignment reporter for the Des Moines Register. She can be reached at vbarreda@gannett.com. Follow her on Twitter at @vbarreda2

This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Iowa DOT adds dual-language road signs near Meskwaki Settlement