Owámniyomni Okhódayapi is a 501(c)(3) non-profit that was founded in 2016 after the Upper Lock closed to commercial navigation. The organization was originally called the St. Anthony Falls Lock & Dam Conservancy and soon renamed to Friends of the Lock & Dam. Its focus was to prevent hydropower interests from further industrializing the site. The Friends convened community, business, and civic leaders to discuss creating a visitor center to increase tourism on the River.
In 2020, the organization transitioned to the name Friends of the Falls to emphasize that its mission was to protect and honor the Falls – the only major waterfall on the Mississippi River. The Friends set aside its concept for a visitor center and began a journey to engage with Native American communities and gain an understanding about the cultural and spiritual significance of this place.
The Friends committed to creating an engagement process centered on Native voices. We convened the Native Partnership Council and hosted a series of Community Conversations that brought Native and non-Native communities together to create a shared vision for the Falls. These discussions were grounded in Indigenous values, like Mitákuye Owas’iƞ (We Are All Relatives) and Mní Wičóni (Water is Life).
The recent transition to Owámniyomni Okhódayapi is not just another name change. It marks an important, intentional, and fundamental shift in how the organization operates. The name Owámniyomni Okhódayapi uplifts Dakota language and makes visible the fact that this is Dakota homeland. Owámniyomni Okhódayapi is Dakota-led and the organization has a Native American majority board of directors.
We are dedicated to centering Native voices, strengthening our connections to Dakota relatives, and uplifting the actively silenced stories of Dakota people through our work at the Falls. We will continue this work in a good way.