The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) now offers dual-language road signs on tribal lands. These signs welcome travelers to tribal communities in English and native languages. Dual-language signs join a long tradition of Native American language shaping our state. The names of many Wisconsin cities, lakes and landmarks are derived from tribal languages.
Even our state’s name Wisconsin is a descendant of Native American language. The name Wisconsin comes from two different tribal words the Menominee word Wēskōhsaeh, meaning "a good place," or the word Meskousing, which is a Algonquian language word that means “where it lies red.” “Where it lies red,” is thought to be a reference to the Wisconsin Dells.
Because Wisconsin is home to 11 different federally recognized tribal governments, several different tribal languages are present. Oconomowoc originates from Potawatomi and means “where the waters meet,” or “river of lakes.” Wausau comes from the Ojibwe word meaning “far away.”
The names of the cities of Kenosha and Manitowoc are derived from the Menominee language. Kenosha comes from the Menominee word Kenūsīw, meaning Northern pike. Manitowoc comes from the word Manetōwak, which translates to "place of the spirits."
First installation of dual-language signage
The first installation of dual-language signs is November 2021 in Red Cliff, which is Gaa-Miskwaabikaang (pronounced ga-misk-wah-be-kong) in Ojibwe. Gaa-Miskwaabikaang means the place where there is red rock cliffs.
Benefits of Dual-Language Signs
- Assist tribes with the revitalization of their languages.
- Inform people of the historic pre-settlement names of geographic features.
- Create a sense of place that reflects the unique tie each Wisconsin tribe has to the land that embodies them as a people.
- Connect the public to Native American history, culture and environment.
- Support the sovereignty of Wisconsin tribes.
Applications for dual-language signs are now being accepted. Please contact your tribal liaison for more information.
Application for dual-language sign
Dual-language sign policy