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By Becky Fillinger | July 8, 2022

The fifth Falls Initiative Community Conversation was hosted June 28 at Open Book in Minneapolis. If you haven’t been following this story, The Falls Initiative is a multiyear, multiphase project to create a place of healing and celebration at Owámniyomni (St. Anthony Falls). The project will transform and return the Mississippi riverfront to the public, being especially mindful to the Dakota and other Indigenous communities who consider the site sacred. The theme of the evening was A Powerful Place for Partnerships.

June 28 community conversation     Photo: Drew Arrieta for Friends of the Falls

The Falls Initiative is often visually represented by a thread. The imagery illustrates the Falls as a story disrupted. Examine the tightly knit beginning of the thread story – it reflects the communities, sense of place and sacredness of Owámniyomni. The middle part of the threaded imagery reflects how this place was torn apart through colonization, genocide against Indigenous people, the city’s development, and industrialization. At present day, we are still in this segment. The Falls Initiative is an effort to bring the threads back together again. It will be a long and thoughtful process to knit the story back together and to permit us all to return to the river.

Image credit: GGN for Friends of the Falls

Below is the timeline of project, with Phase 4 concluding last week. Please click on any Phase to learn more about the work done during that time frame:

At the June 28 meeting, many stakeholders gave input on the process so far.

Carrie Day Aspinwall and Kjersti Duval.   Photo: Becky Fillinger

Carrie Day-Aspinwall, who has served as a consultant to The Falls Initiative and facilitator for the Native Partnership Council, told us, “The work on The Falls Initiative has been amazing. It’s not often that we’re invited to the table. We have been able to reestablish, reconnect and re-energize the non-Indian people to the Dakota community. The journey has been strong, consistent and quite honestly it has felt like the right thing to do. We keep our culture at the center of all this work – Indigenous values – our culture, our language, customs and way of life – have been the basis of all our work on The Falls Initiative to date.”

David Malda, key design leader at GGN provided us with schematics of the design concepts of upper falls, falls and lower falls and what features and programming might take place on the sites. He reiterated that the theme for the night’s presentation, A Powerful Place for Partnerships, was not about decolonizing, but instead indigenizing.

Kjersti Duval, Director of The Falls Initiative, walked the audience through the timeline of turning the property back to the public. She told the audience that early action by The Falls Initiative to build a strong coalition has protected the site and has created the space necessary for a different kind of process to shape the future of the site, saying, “Indigenous landscapes are rising up all over the world, and this place will be one of the most important.”

Kjersti also introduced Interboro Partners, who will lead a focused study on partnerships and programming with local partners MIGIZI and the Division of Indian Work in the coming months.

Image credit: GGN for Friends of the Falls

David D’Oca, Cofounder and Principal at Interboro Partners, told us, “We are just getting started – my firm along with local Twin Cities’ partners are working together for a programming partnership study. We are looking to advance some of the initial ideas about programs. What should be on the site? How can we advance these ideas, and who would be good partners? Art on the site – who would be part of that conversation? Our task is to keep the conversation going – this is complex, long term and a gamechanger.  We are so honored to be part of this project.”

After the main presentations, breakout groups continued to brainstorm about what the place could be – and how it could grow through time.

The public’s involvement is by no means over. For community members who are interested, please follow The Falls Initiative on FacebookTwitterInstagram, or by subscribing to the newsletter. Your input is welcome and desired.

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