‘Ho-Chunk Nation Reservation’ highway signs part of a 2022 State Project and removed after found incorrect

By Ardith Van Riper

     Two highway signs displaying the words ‘Ho-Chunk Nation Reservation’ appeared on October 18 near Black River Falls, and were removed on October 19.  Highway Commissioner Jay Borek informed the Hocak Worak that the signs were part of a 2022 I-94 project #10230079. The project is in the State Highway Improvement Program and State Highway Backbone Rehabilitation sub-program.

     The signs were created as part of the Traffic Operations Signing section of the project.  This section “includes all work associated with the installation of new signs and supports along existing highways.”  The ‘Ho-Chunk Nation Reservation’ highway signs come in, and workers installed them along Highway 54, near the industrial park, and east of the intersection of Highway 54 and County Road K.

     The Highway Commissioner said that an employee of the Ho-Chunk Nation telephoned him to inform him the signs were incorrect.  Highway Commissioner Jay Borek has no jurisdiction over state highways but coordinates anything that needs fixing.  His office looked into the matter and found that the ‘Ho-Chunk Nation Reservation’ signs were wrong.

     The Ho-Chunk Nation is considered a non-reservation tribe.  Instead, members acquired individual homesteads to regain ancestral territory, and the Nation maintains parcels of land placed in Indian Trust Land as designated by the federal government.  The federal government has granted legal reservation status to some of these parcels.  However, the Ho-Chunk Nation does not have a contiguous reservation in the traditional sense.

     A representative from WisDOT informed the Highway Commissioner that the project design started in 2018 and the signs were added to the project design in January 2020 after coordination with the Ho-Chunk Nation. Commissioner Borek directed his crew to remove the signs.