Skip to main content


July 27, 2020 (MINNEAPOLIS) – Friends of the Falls, in partnership with the Native American Community Development Institute (NACDI), announces a community engagement effort for The Falls Initiative. The organizations seek to transform the Upper Lock at The Falls, land that is sacred to the Dakota and other Indigenous communities. This site is known as Owámniyomni, or whirlpool, in Dakota.

The Upper Lock was closed to commercial navigation in 2015, and the Friends of the Falls (formerly Friends of the Lock and Dam) was founded in 2016 to repurpose the site into a world-class destination and interpretive center. The organization supports transitioning ownership of the Lock from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to the City of Minneapolis and restoring public access to the riverfront.

The Falls Initiative will advance adopted plans including the City of Minneapolis’ Downtown Public Realm Framework (2016); Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board’s Central Riverfront Regional Parks Master Plan (2016); Meet Minneapolis’ Destination Transformation 2030 (2016); and the St. Anthony Falls Heritage Board’s Changing Relationships to the Power of the Falls (2014).

In its launch years, Friends of the Falls convened a coalition of stakeholders from over two dozen local organizations. These entities came to acknowledge not only the site’s ecological significance and industrial history, but also its cultural heritage as home of the Dakota people. Friends of the Falls recognized the need to broaden project engagement and put this missing narrative at the forefront. Early visualizations of the project have been set aside to create space for the untold stories of this site and develop a true shared vision for Owámniyomni, The Falls.

Friends of the Falls welcomes its new partnership with NACDI, and with it, the opportunity to build authentic, reciprocal, and long-term relationships with First Nations people.

“This partnership is historic because it does more than simply seek Native American advice into decision making for this project. Instead, because of our formal agreement, the Friends and Indigenous Peoples will share decision making and shape and implement this project together,” said Mark Andrew, President of the Friends of the Falls.

The Native American Community Development Institute was founded in 2007 to address the growing challenges and opportunities facing the urban Indigenous community. NACDI is committed to transforming the American Indian community to effectively respond to 21st-century opportunities. NACDI works to promote innovative community development strategies that strengthen the overall sustainability and well-being of American Indian people and communities.

Core to the engagement effort is creation of a Native Advisory Council. Tribal and Indigenous leaders will be invited to guide the engagement process and counsel the design team, which includes GGN and VJAA architects.

Robert Lilligren, President and CEO of NACDI shares, “We are truly honored to be working in partnership with the Friends of the Falls. It is important that our values are aligned with the Friends of the Falls who recognize the importance for Dakota and Indigenous perspectives and representation for the foundation of this work.”

Opportunities for public feedback during this ideation phase will be available in-person and online through February 2021. Learn more at