The message is simple enough: “Welcome.”
However, Yankton is sending another message with the new “Welcome” window-cling signs being distributed by a new civic group called Connecting Cultures.
As reported in Monday’s Press & Dakotan, these signs welcome visitors (and, in some cases, new residents) to Yankton in 18 languages. They are as follows: Hawaiian (aloha), German (wilkommen), Italian (Benvenuto), Czech (vitejte), Swahili (Karibu), Polish (witamy), Spanish (bienvenidos), English (welcome), Welsh (croeso), Tagalog (maligayang), Portuguese (bem-vindo), Vietnamese (hoan njhênh), Danish (velkommen), Japanese (yōkoso), Hindi (namaste), Lakota Sioux (ta yá yáhi), French (Bienvenue) and Hebrew (shalom).
Perhaps the other message Yankton is sending is more than a greeting: “Welcome everyone,” no matter who you are, where you’re from and what your background is.
“We want to get (signs) around Yankton and promote that Yankton is a diverse place and we want to welcome everybody, no matter what culture they are from,” said Cassandra Haas, a member of Leadership Yankton
The Yankton area is a popular tourist spot. People come here for its recreational aspects; they also pass through here as part of a more leisurely route to and from the Black Hills. As such, this area does see a wide variety of people who speak more than one language — more so than you might think at first.
Also, Yankton has become one of the premier sites in the world for archery. This community has already hosted two world archery tournaments, with another coming up next year, followed by the biggest of all, the Hyundai World Championships, in 2021. These events have made Yankton a landing spot for global visitors, making this town something of an international destination in that respect.
Of course, one could be tempted to read a lot into that multilingual welcoming signage given the current climate, but perhaps that makes a good point, too.
Yankton’s diversity is one of the things that led to the formation of Connecting Cultures. It’s an effort to embrace the many parts of what this community is.
“We realized that our community is growing,” noted Rita Nelson, workforce development coordinator for Yankton Area Progressive Growth, “and we wanted to figure out ways to reduce barriers for people that are new to the community to navigate (it), whether it’s through the school system or through employment, and help them feel welcome and make Yankton whole.”
There is certainly nothing wrong with that, and simply telling these people “welcome” is a simple gesture that can be appreciated by everyone. And maybe that simple word says a lot about this community.