Dakota Spirit Walk (Augmented Reality)

In collaboration with MōMōVA: The Moving Museum of Virtual Art and support by Pixel Farm studios, 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 through the art and storytelling of Marlena Myles, Spirit Lake Dakota.


It will open September 2021 at the Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary.

Downtown Saint Paul, Minnesota.


Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary

From Wakháŋ Tháŋka (Great Mystery) there came a great unifying life force that flowed in and through all things— the flowers of the plains, blowing winds, rocks, trees, birds, animals— and was the same force that had been breathed into the first man. Thus all things were kindred and brought together by the same Great Mystery. Kinship with all creatures of the earth, sky, and water is a real and active principle.

Luther Standing Bear (Lakota chief)

The Dakota Spirit Walk

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 4 stops where they will meet Uŋčí Makhá (oon-CHEE mah-KAH) Grandmother Earth, Íŋyaŋ (Ee-yah) Grandfather Stone, thunder beings, water serpents 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.

Augmented Reality Demo with audio

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.

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

Augmented Reality Demo with audio

Stop 2:  Uŋktéȟi (water & Medicine plants)

Over this body of water, Uŋktéȟi the water serpent arrives 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 family. 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 Demo with audio

Stop 3:  Íŋyaŋ/Grandfather STone @ Sand Castle

This stop honors the past and present as a sacred site to Dakota people. Íŋyaŋ, Grandfather Stone, introduces himself with the bluffs of Saint Paul “Imníža Ská Othúŋwe” (Village along the White Cliffs)  behind the scene. He speaks about the history of the site as Kaposia, a Dakota village that was forced to leave in 1851 — that its presence still evolves around us. He mentions that the traditions of those people are still alive today, as a Dakota grandmother plays with her granddaughter, passing teaching her of her culture through child’s play.

Íŋyaŋ tells us grown men may learn from very little children, for the hearts of little children are pure, and, therefore, the Great Spirit may show to them many things which older people miss. The Wáǧačhaŋ, cottonwood tree, is very sacred to the Dakota people: it is said that adults saw children building little houses from the Wáǧačhaŋ’s leaves and so that is how they learned to make tipis. Wáǧačhaŋ is the “Tree of Life” because of the star found hidden in the bark


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 Demo with audio

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 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 messenger 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.

More Dakota Resources by Marlena Myles

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.

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