PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — A state lawmaker from Indian country wants part of a South Dakota highway named for some of the tribal code-talkers who helped Allied forces win World War II.

Democrat Sen. Shawn Bordeaux introduced legislation during the 2023 session to “designate U.S. Highway 83 from south of the White River to the Nebraska-South Dakota border as Sicangu Lakota Code Talker Highway.”

The Senate Transportation Committee set aside SB-190 because the state Department of Transportation has a process for memorial highways and auto tour routes. Bordeaux in turn has now filed an application to the state Transportation Commission.

The difficulty, state Transportation Secretary Joel Jundt told the commission members on Thursday, is that the entire length of US 83 in South Dakota, from Nebraska to North Dakota, already is designated as the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Highway.

Further complicating the matter is that the state department doesn’t have a record of the organization or group that sought the designation.

Jundt suggested carving out the stretch of US 83 in Todd and Mellette counties through the Rosebud Indian Reservation and re-designating it to honor the code talkers. “I think it’s a very important thing that the gentlemen did,” he said.

The commission agreed but decided the department must contact a Vietnam veterans organization and get consent before making the change.

Commissioner Mike Vehle of Mitchell led the push to check first. “I am almost for this,” Vehle said. “But I do think we should reach out. There are Vietnam veterans organizations out there.” He doesn’t want to risk “engendering bad feelings.”

Commissioner Don Roby of Watertown said taking that step would protect the code-talkers’ supporters as well. “Just so we have a check and a balance,” Roby said.

Jundt said he didn’t know of any other time when a segment of a previously designated road was wanted for a different honor.

Commissioner Bruce Cull of Yankton asked that the senator’s request be approved with the caveat that a Vietnam veterans organization give its approval. “If they don’t find somebody, then it will come back to us,” Cull said.

“It isn’t automatic if there isn’t a response?” commissioner Lynn Jensen of Lake Preston asked.

“Correct,” Cull answered.

Said Roby, “I do not want to walk over the current group that is named.” He added, “We want to be respectful of those who have the current naming rights.”