Dakota Spirit Walk (Augmented Reality)

In collaboration with MōMōVA: The Moving Museum of Virtual Art, the Dakota Spirit Walk will be an augmented reality public art installation

that that honors, educates and connects visitors to Dakota history, culture and significance of land.


It will take place Summer/Fall 2021 at the Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary and the Union Depot Greenline stop.

Downtown Saint Paul, Minnesota.


The Dakota Spirit Walk – Mood Board

Sketch idea

Stop 1:  Uŋčí Makhá/Grandmother Earth

This stop will share Dakota knowledge of plants that are being restored to this site. Grandmother Earth will welcome visitors. She will ask visitors to be humble and tread softly on their journey, be mindful of their actions; do no harm for this is a sacred place and if harm is done, then it must be repaired… as is currently happening at the nature sanctuary.

I imagine there to be flowers and plants around her, being animated as they each speak their names in Dakota and ask the visitor to repeat after them after her introduction.

Minnesota once had 18 million acres of prairie. Today, only a little over 1% of native prairie remains. The Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary is one example of people working to restore that lost paradise but there is still much that needs to be done.

Prize: Download of coloring page featuring Dakota floral plants

Idea 5

Augmented Reality Ideas:

  • With the first AR piece idea, I thought it might be cool to have the Dakota plants names revealed through cards that one could touch to activate to play the audio. (Not sure if they can be triggered somehow to make it interactive).
  • The second and third AR pieces show different ways flowers could be used: perhaps as a garden the user can walk through.
  • The 4th AR piece shows a trail that’s similar to the one that people will walk on, thought it might be helpful to people if there were items to collect along the way that also shows they’re on the correct path (not that it’s hard to get off track)
  • The 5th AR piece shows butterflies, perhaps those can be along the trail as a guide. In Dakota culture, monarch butterflies visiting you represents a deceased loved one coming to visit you, so this could tie into the notion that our ancestors are still here to guide and help us.
  • The 6th AR piece shows a figure of a woman with items floating in front of her, perhaps this could be how Unci Maka is situated with her flowers surrounded her that uses can pass through to listen to her speech.

Sketch idea

Stop 2:  Uŋktéȟi (water & Medicine plants)

Over this body of water, I imagine Uŋktéȟi the water serpent coming out in a frightening manner. Before it can reach the visitor, Uŋktéȟi introduces himself as the protector of water. He warns the medicine plants of the area shouldn’t be misused for they are a gift and extension of Grandmother Earth and that water gives life to all, therefore it must be valued the same way we value our parents. He warns not to mistreat water or litter the earth in anyway, or he’ll come looking for them.


Uŋktéȟi are underwater serpents that cause floods and mysterious deaths. They are at eternal war with the thunder beings known as Wakíŋyaŋ, who protects mankind from them. Wakíŋyaŋ is also the message of Grandfather Stone. Even though Wakíŋyaŋ protects mankind from bad spirits, he can also punish people who are living in a bad way just as Uŋktéȟi can. Both spirits have been found throughout petroglyphs in the region dating back more than 10,000 years ago.

Prize: Download coloring page of the water spirit.

Augmented Reality Ideas:

  • Ideas 1 & 2 show large AR creatures which Unktehi would be. Wondering if it can move in a menacing way at the viewer like the Trex.
  • Ideas 3 & 4 show fish swimming around, perhaps these can move around the viewer.
  • Idea 5 shows water droplets that maybe could also move around the fish and unktehi or viewer too.

Sketch idea

Stop 3:  Íŋyaŋ/Grandfather STone @ Sand Castle

This stop honors the past and present as a sacred site to Dakota people. 

I imagine a giant rock face. As the visitor moves their phone across the scene, they will see a smaller Dakota village come to life in front of the sand castle feature. Íŋyaŋ, Grandfather Stone, will introduce himself. He tells the visitor that Dakota people call Saint Paul “Imníža Ská Othúŋwe” (Village along the White Cliffs), and asks the visitor to remember and honor the people here who are now buried in the mounds along the cliff, and the village will fade away. 


Íŋyaŋ is the first and oldest spirit. His enduring spirit of rock symbolizes the dwelling places of the spirits, which is the meaning of the cave we call Wakháŋ Tipi

Prize: Download of coloring page featuring present-day St Paul & tipi/indigenous designs combined

Augmented Reality Ideas:

  • Ideas 1 & 2 show a large head with the items floating around it, this is similar to what I thought in my sketch of Inyan being placed in front of the cliff with the Dakota village floating around him.
  • Idea 3: I thought perhaps I could have a village life scene floating in a sphere around the viewer like in the previous stops that had elements that engulfed the viewer. 

Sketch idea

Stop 4:  Wakíŋyaŋ (Star Knowledge) @ Wakháŋ Tipi cave

From a flash in the sky, comes Wakíŋyaŋ, the Thunder Being, the messenger of Inyan (Grandfather Stone) and protector of humans. He tells the visitor his thunderbolts represent the balance between life and death, earth and sky, as it connects land with the heavens. He mentions the petroglyphs in the Wakháŋ Tipi cave illustrate how we are connected and come from the stars. Dakota constellations fade in around him as he reminds the visitor to be a good relative to all, to live with generosity for our ancestors are watching us on our journey from the stars above and he returns to the sky.


Wakíŋyaŋ is the messager of Grandfather Stone. Inside the now-sealed entrance of Wakháŋ Tipi cave, there are petroglyphs of various animals including the rattlesnake, who is the protector of medicines and burial mounds. These petroglyphs correspond with the constellation known as Orion’s belt in a Dakota concept known as Kapémni (mirroring, meaning what happens above in the spirit world happens below in the material world).

Prize: Download coloring page of the thunderbeing at the cave.

Augmented Reality Ideas:

  • Ideas 1 & 2: I thought perhaps the constellations can move up above like these particles with their Dakota names. Near the cliff/ground level, the petroglyphs could float around as well, but animate the snakes and other creatures from the cave.
  • Idea 3: Or the petroglyphs or stars could be behind the thunderbird in a sort of occult way like this demo.
  • Idea 4: Perhaps include interactive clouds surrounding the thunderbird.
  • Idea 5: Movement of the thunderbird flying. I don’t know if there’s a way to add lightning effects, but maybe that could be accomplished with a thunderstorm sound effect.

Sketch idea

These are AR of trains with plants growing throughout them by Timo Helgert.

Bonus/Intro @ UNION DEPOT GreenLINE stop

I imagine having a 3D version of a map that shows the way to the Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary. I imagine little tree dwelling spirits known as Čhaŋóthi urging the visitor along, perhaps Indigenous plant designs flowing around the train.

Backmatter: Union Depot greenline stop is a short 15-minute walk along a bike path to the Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary.  

Prize: Download map & coloring page of metro transit light rail with Dakota designs growing within.

Past relatable artworks for reference

Cinema 4d animations
(3d program)

A couple of examples of the 3D models and animations I created. More of these could be created and used for this project.

Dakota Land maps

Here you will find two Dakota land maps which tell the past, present and future of Dakota people and language.

Audio pronunciation by Dawí, associate producer at Dakhóta iápi Okhódakičhiye. For more information visit the project page.

Dakota Nature Spirits

Here are a series of Dakota Spirits that I have illustrated in Adobe Illustrator. Each piece shares traditional knowledge that is connected to each spirit. Click the image to learn specifics.

Dakota Coloring Pages

These can be found on my free resources page. I am currently in the progress of creating a professionally printed coloring book of the Indigenous lands of the Dakota/Lakota and will expand to a Dakota coloring book of the Twin Cities.

Dakota Star Knowledge animation

I created this for the MN humanities center about the Star Knowledge connected to the Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary and Burial Mounds.

Spirit Walk


In collaboration with MōMōVA: The Moving Museum of Virtual Art, the Dakota Spirit Walk will lead visitors through these sacred lands where they will meet a few of our spirits. There will be 5 stops where they will meet Uŋčí Makhá (oon-CHEE mah-KAH) Grandmother Earth, Íŋyaŋ (Ee-yah) Grandfather Stone, thunder beings, water serpents and the mischievous little tree dwellers known as Čhaŋóthi (cha-OH-tee) who all will pass on traditional teachings:

Dakota people address grandmother earth, her plants, animals and all other living beings as relatives, as part of the sacred hoop that balances the universe. We believe every object in the universe is Wakháŋ (sacred), having a spirit, life and intelligence and we are all related through the creator Wakháŋ Tháŋka (Great Mysterious Spirit).

Augmented Reality is the perfect metaphor for Native Presence: Dakota peoples histories and stories are here, invisible at the moment to many; yet folks only need to look with new eyes at the deeper powers held here. This technology will bring that ancient knowledge into the present, for future generations to access.

Perfect Location: Rich History and Revitalization Efforts

The Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary and connected Indian Burial Mounds Park is home to natural springs, sacred caves and ancient burial mounds. It is the perfect example of the city and community coming together to repair the damage of industry, restoring the land back to its original state while welcoming Indigenous people to lead the way. It is also a 15-minute walk from the Union Depot Greenline stop.

Prior to 1851, this was the site of the village of Kaposia, as well as being a significant sacred space to Dakota people and other Indigenous peoples.

European settlement and conflicts would eventually force that Dakota village away to the Minnesota River Valley and beyond. Decades of industrial use destroyed many of the burial mounds and sacred sites.

However, after years of neglect as an illegal dumping ground, the land was purchased by the City of Saint Paul and restored as a park in 2005. A broad coalition of conservation organizations and volunteers from across the Eastside have been working to remediate the damaged land in the years since.

Final outcome

As the first of its kind use of technology, visitors will leave with a new understand of Mitákuye Owás’iŋ (All Are Related) and have access to various educational and interactive resources to learn about Dakota history of their homelands.

Acres to explore

Regional Visitors Annually



Prizes (color pages & artwork of each station)


Discount code to future Dakota coloring book of the twin cities

Lesson plans

Access to current and future education resources to encourage classroom visits and tours.

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