Three signs welcoming highway drivers into the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation near Kadoka, South Dakota were recently covered in spray painted messages containing expletives, racist imagery and attacks against President Joe Biden.
According to KOTA News, the vandalized billboards sit along Highway 73, a common route taken by motorists passing them through the reservation.
When not debased by racist hatred, the signs welcome drivers to the Oglala Lakota Nation.
"You are entering the Land of Red Cloud...Pine Ridge Indian Reservation...Home of the Oglala Sioux Tribe."
That same sign was covered by a swastika symbol and the words "F'KKK Biden," which was written using the letter "K" enough times to make a nod to the White supremacist organization the Ku Klux Klan which is commonly abbreviated as "KKK."
Pine Ridge resident Marina Bettelyoun took photos of the three desecrated signs and posted them to Facebook.
She shared her feelings on the hate crime.
People that saw Bettelyoun's post shared her outrage.
Deanna Huber Clayborne/Facebook
KOTA News spoke with Bettelyoun directly, and she expanded on the sentiment she expressed in that post.
"The sign itself can be replaced—it can be restored—but the message it leaves behind is lasting."
"That's a deep wound."
Her husband, Alexander Bettelyoun, shared his thoughts as well.
"For me, personally, I feel like I got desensitized to it."
"[The] first [time] seeing this, I was like 'Oh, wow. No big deal,' but that's only because you're just so used to it. Seeing the hate—especially like this."
Someone vandalized signs on the Oglala Lakota Pine Ridge Reservation. This is the kind of harassment Tribes can… https://t.co/Jdf9RutEdl— Ruth H. Hopkins, B.S., M.S., J.D. (@Ruth H. Hopkins, B.S., M.S., J.D.) 1612206359.0
“That’s a form of terrorism”: Two welcome signs on the Pine Ridge Reservation were defaced with racist and anti-Sem… https://t.co/PCU6gQTn6W— indianz.com (@indianz.com) 1612367844.0
@LakotaMan1 This was done at Pine Ridge. https://t.co/eQevXao8yr— ShermansNeckties (@ShermansNeckties) 1612292372.0
‘That’s a deep wound:’ 3 signs vandalized on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation https://t.co/CalydtHWSq #INDIGENOUS… https://t.co/1FhgY0rCcd— Indigenous (@Indigenous) 1612279800.0
The Oglala Sioux Tribal President, Kevin Killer, and the tribe's Department of Public Safety also responded to the vandalism with the following statement:
"As President of the Oglala Sioux Tribe and former member of the South Dakota legislature, I and all members of the Oglala Lakota Nation, vehemently condemn the hate-filled vandalism to the signs located on South Dakota State Highway 73, just south of Kadoka at the borderline."
"These signs serve as our welcoming emblems to visitors and guests of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, and depict the pride we have for our culture and traditions as a sovereign nation. Over the past 24-hours, the signs have been spray-painted with a derogatory term involving President Joseph Biden, the letters 'KKK', and a swastika painted over our tribal flag."
"The Oglala Lakota Nation would like those individuals
responsible to be held accountable for their actions, and be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."
"As a sovereign nation within the boundaries of the State of South Dakota, the Oglala Sioux Tribe continues to extend a hand of friendship to those wanting to make a positive impact on this and future generations. We look forward to sharing our new signs welcoming visitors from around the world shortly."
As KOTA News' coverage of the story spread on the internet, the community's anger only swelled.
Kristin E Trask/Facebook
Severt Long Soldier-Sitting Bear/Facebook
James Tyler Morris/Facebook
Hopefully the new signs will prove the racist vandals only ensured the creation of more beautiful welcome imagery than ever.