Organizers Propose New “Welcome to Bemidji” Sign in Ojibwe
The City of Bemidji, the Minnesota Department of Transportation, and community organizers are looking at a proposal for the placement and approval of a new Ojibwe sign that will welcome locals and visitors to Bemidji.
Recent meetings tribes have had with the City of Bemidji and Beltrami County resurrected the idea of bridge building between the city and the tribes by recognizing and respecting the Ojibwe culture in Minnesota. This can already be seen at area businesses and organizations, where door signs say “boozhoo” (“hello”) and “miigwech” (“thank you”).
But organizers are looking to take the signage a step further. Community organizer and advocate Michael Meuers says that many people don’t know that Bemijigamaag is the Ojibwe word for Bemidji. It means “lake with crossing waters” and refers to how the Mississippi River flows through Lake Bemidji.
“I’ve always thought … that it would be really nice to have a sign coming into town that said ‘Welcome to Bemijigamaag in the heart of Ojibwe Country,'” says Meuers.
Years ago, when Bemidji Woolen Mills owner Bill Batchelder served on the Bemidji Downtown Development Authority, he says they discussed a “welcome to Bemidji” sign. The discussion took place multiple times, but there wasn’t any action that took place then.
The idea is to have a bright sign with a lot of contrast with very little wording located on a sloping hill before the first exit into Bemidji. Batchelder adds that though nothing is set in stone, as he wants all community members, including tribal members, to be involved in this project. He believes it will be a good step and a continuation of what was started with Ojibwe signage on doors towards bringing the community of Bemidji together.
There will be a series of meetings within the Bemidji area to discuss the this project. Permission still needs to be finalized with MnDOT, tribes, and the community.
The project is estimated to be complete by summer of 2023 if approved. Eventually, they would like to have four signs located on the north and north sides of Highway 71 and east and west on Highway 2.