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 – Work in Progress File Access

Video Demo

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. We are all related and must unite with the natural world as human beings.

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 and animals

Notes & additional ideas for improvement

  • With the animals/plants/insects in the circle, I thought it might be more interesting to have them put into 3D format and then placed on the ground level around Unci Maka, where people can walk through them. I can record audio of their name in Dakota and perhaps those can be activated by tapping the screen or something?
  • With the animation of Unci Maka, I used a PNG sequence (alternative to a gif) to give her motion. I’m not sure if that will work in your program. This can be changed to a non-moving PNG if not.

The folder contains the vector files, PNG and 3D files. The 3D files includes the Cinema 4D file and fbx files along with the texture (the patterns) in the “tex” folder.

The timing of the different objects arriving can be adjusted — Adobe Aero is the program I used to demo my pieces and it’s a little limited in what it can do when it comes to delaying and sequencing when different pieces reveal themselves. So ideally, I would want Unci Maka to be there first, then have the 3D hands and flower reveal/grow from the ground upwards. As the (currently – unrecorded)  narration plays, the animals and flower design with the text “We are all related” would be revealed. I’m not sure of the limits or anything like that with the app, but that’s how I would sequence the AR if I could. 🙂


Video Demo


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 stars above guide us below, as they contain the knowledge of when to have ceremonies, where life comes from and where life goes after our journey on earth. 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 pages of Dakota constellations

 Notes & additional ideas for improvement

  • With the cone/star figure in the middle, I wanted to ask if it’s possible for your team to design it so that the cones at the top and bottom look perhaps like an hourglass instead of these basic ones? Adobe Aero is relatively limited in the way it uses materials, so I couldn’t demo something with maybe a glass texture, but maybe your team has an idea of how to better execute this concept? To the left is the sketch design.
  • With the clouds, currently they’re just simply transparent PNGs but maybe your team has a better way to have a mist/fog/clouds that encircle the star in the middle of the design.
  • The thunder being is a PNG sequence that gives it its animation. If this doesn’t work with your program, there’s a still frame PNG in the folder.
  • The constellation PNGs all have the North Star/circle in the direct center that works as an alignment guide to get the layers centered.

The folder contains the vector files, PNG and 3D files. The 3D files includes the Cinema 4D file and fbx files along with the texture (the patterns) in the “tex” folder.

The timing with this would ideally be the thunder being with the star and center clouds behind him. Then the cones grow upwards and downwards with the (currently unrecorded) narration. The tipis would reveal themselves from the center and bounce in rhythm of a (currently unrecorded) drum. The constellation would fade it from behind.


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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