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The Falls Initiative


Wókizi. Ihdúwitayapi. Waúŋspekhiye. Wówaš’ake. Wówakhaŋ.

Heal. Connect. Teach. Strength. Power.

Friends of the Falls is working to create a place of environmental and cultural healing, restoration, education, and connection at the Upper Lock at Owámniyomni, meaning “turbulent waters” in the Dakota language. In English, this place is known as Saint Anthony Falls.

Our work is grounded in truth and reconciliation; we have a responsibility to acknowledge the past and advance a more equitable and inclusive future.

As we work to create a shared vision for the Falls, we carry forward this statement describing the Native Partnership Council’s vision for this place:

“The vision of the Native Partnership Council is to create a place of healing at Owámniyomni that restores connections to Ȟaȟa Wakpá, Dakota culture, and language; teaches us to honor and care for all our relatives, including the land and water; and addresses the parallel trauma of colonization by recognizing the transformative power of this place.”

Environmental and cultural restoration emerged as priorities through community engagement. By restoring indigenous landscape and reintroducing active, flowing, water to the site, this place can address habitat fragmentation and fulfill its role as a good relative to migratory song and water birds, fish and other aquatic species, pollinators, and native mussels.

Illustrations of early design ideas depict how this vision might be realized at the site of the Upper Lock. These ideas are in no way final, and they will continue to evolve based on Dakota Tribal leaders’ input and direction.

The first season of work for The Falls Initiative, September 2021 through December 2022, might be considered “winter”, a time for connection, storytelling, and preparation for what’s to come.

This first season included the convening of the Native Partnership Council and development of early design ideas for this place.

Phases 1-6 below refer specifically to Community Engagement.

Phase 1


Coalition Building

Phase 2


Inform & Connect

Phase 3



Phase 4

Jan – June 2022


Phase 5

July – Aug 2022


Phase 6

Nov – Mar 2023


We now approach the second season of work. In this “spring” season, as the flora and fauna come alive again, we move closer to implementation.

We consider models of ownership and operations and the technical considerations for transferring land from the federal government to a local entity.

We imagine how programming rooted in Native values can enliven this place and make it feel distinctly welcoming to the Dakota and other Indigenous communities.

And we explore the collective impact of this work – asking ourselves how The Falls Initiative can support and reinforce the work of other projects amplifying Native voices, locally along the riverfront and on a national stage.

Native voices.

We’re centering the project on Native voices, with the Native Partnership Council at the heart of the engagement process.

Share your voice.

View public comments and feedback submitted through our online survey. Additional reports forthcoming.

Immersive experiences.

Visit a simulated museum exhibit from your desktop to learn more about the process and this place.

What we heard.

Key takeaways from the Community Conversation series, field engagement, and Immersive Exhibit.

Engagement Opportunities

There are no upcoming events.

In the News

Media Coverage

How a sacred Dakota island was destroyed by Minneapolis’ industrial ambitions

By Auds Jenkins, Star Tribune. Spirit Island was once a prominent landmark of the downtown Minneapolis riverfront. Visitors to Minneapolis' Stone Arch Bridge often gaze at the St. Anthony Falls,…