Highway signs promote controversy after intending to honor farmer community

New signs along Highway 10 in Carver County intended to honor farmers in their agriculture community have now become a sensitive topic of debate, with locals saying the wording of the signage was botched.

The signs read: "Roadway dedicated to farmers and their families. Carver County’s original caretakers."

They’ve since been taken down, after pushback from locals and the indigenous community.

"The original caretaker part is what stuck in my mind - the farmers aren’t the original caretakers, plain and simple," Harvey Robideau told FOX 9 on Tuesday. He lives near where one of the signs stood. "There’s a lot of people who believe like I do that the farmers are not the original caretakers of the land."

Several people showed up at a County Board Of Commissioners Meeting on June 28 to argue that point calling the signage inaccurate, dismissive, disrespectful and a waste of taxpayer dollars that stains the county.

"A lot of people had reservations about it and that made sense to me, why would they do that?" Robideau said. "They’re not the original caretakers, obviously."

"It was somebody’s idea I suppose and they just ran with it without thinking, like most of us do when we run our mouths," neighbor Dave Burfield said. "Indians were here before the farmers."

The board made clear they had no ill will or intent of offending anyone with the signs, but that they understand words matter, calling the wording a mistake they hope to learn from.

In a statement, Commissioner Matt Udermann wrote:

I hope the intent of the signs' to honor the farmers in this strong ag community is captured well. The general sentiment from Dakota leaders, farmers and the community is a simple modification to the word 'original' allows for accomplishing the intent of honoring farmers without unintended hurt for those that occupied the land prior to 1855. Our county values include learning, dignity and respect and more - and this is a moment that has allowed for even richer dialogue, learning, sharing and collaboration personally and as a community. Tribal leaders and others have been gracious in a collective effort to help with practical, positive and meaningful onramps in making Carver County even better!

"Rephrasing it would make the most sense," Robideau said.

"Maybe reword it somehow or another so that [Native Americans] are included," Burfield added.

The board considered moving forward with revised signs that remove the phrase original caretakers; but after pushback against that, now everything is on hold.

On Tuesday, Commisioner Dayle Degler told FOX 9 the board has yet to decide how to move forward and when, how, or if to reword the signs.