BISMARCK – The North Dakota Department of Transportation has begun the tedious task of removing and replacing the tradition “Red Tomahawk” signs that have marked state highways for almost 100 years. The signs which feature a silhouette of a Native American, are being replaced by ones with the shape of the state of North Dakota.
NDDOT will replace the signs on an as needed basis, which will be a slow process, with most signs being replaced only if they are worn, and or damaged. The Marcellus Red Tomahawk signs first appeared in 1923 after the state began marking and numbering state highways, with the silhouette of the legendary Lakota man who shot and killed Sitting Bull.
Much like the removal of the University of North Dakota’s “Fighting Sioux” name and logo, many North Dakotan’s aren’t happy with removing an image associated with the state’s history, including members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.
Tomahawk was a scout for the U.S. military and later served as a federal police officer, and was among those sent to arrest Sitting Bull on December 15, 1890. He and another officer shot the Lakota leader in an incident that occurred on the North Dakota portion of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.
The North Dakota Highway Patrol also displays an image of the Red Tomahawk on their vehicles, however there are no plans to remove the logo in conjunction with NDDOT.