Video: How we chose plants in partnership for the restoration at Wakan Tipi

Meet four plants in the restored tallgrass prairie and floodplain at Wakaŋ Tipi in St. Paul, a sacred place to the Dakota.

In this video, we talk with our partners at Native-led Wakaŋ Tipi Awaŋyaŋkapi about why we chose to grow these trees and wildflowers and what medicine and habitat they offer. You'll learn about hoary vervain or tȟó pȟestóla, bee balm or waȟpé waštémna, Eastern cottonwood or waǧačhaŋ, and bur oak or uŋskúyeča.

FMR's work to protect and restore special places like this can only happen through partnership. This video shows the habitat benefits and cultural connections that are being realized at Wakaŋ Tipi because of collaboration with Wakaŋ Tipi Awaŋyaŋkapi and other organizations.

Wakaŋ Tipi: A sacred landscape

Wakaŋ Tipi, or Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary, east of downtown St. Paul, is the location of a sacred cave site of the Dakota people and a place of significant change over the last 250 years.

The landscape was once a wide floodplain of the Mississippi River, and its bounty made an ideal place for the Dakota. With the arrival of European colonizers came the destruction of the cave entrance and conversion of the floodplain to make way for industrialization and the railroad.

The natural features of the landscape were heavily degraded until the late 1990s when Wakaŋ Tipi Awaŋyaŋkapi (formerly Lower Phalen Creek Project), the Trust for Public Land, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the National Park Service purchased the land from the railroad and conveyed it to the City of St. Paul.

Over the next several years, many organizations and community volunteers worked to remove garbage, contaminated soil and invasive species from Wakaŋ Tipi in an effort to return the site to some of its original vitality.

Restoring habitat and Dakota connections through partnership

FMR wrote a natural resources management plan for Wakaŋ Tipi in 2020 that incorporated the habitat needs of the site while also recognizing its sacred value to the Dakota and its potential to be restored for Native communities.

Staff at Wakaŋ Tipi Awaŋyaŋkapi conducted a survey to identify culturally important plant species. Together we've incorporated them into the ongoing restoration work. These plants provide a multitude of benefits from supporting diverse wildlife to being a source of food and medicine to the Dakota.

The video above, another collaboration between FMR and Wakaŋ Tipi Awaŋyaŋkapi, showcases a few of these plant species.

The expansive restoration at Wakaŋ Tipi was possible because of the dedicated collaboration of many organizations. Shared expertise, financial resources and a common vision came together to restore Wakaŋ Tipi to the vibrant site that it is today. Implementation of the 2020 management plan to restore and enhance this space was funded in large part by the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund as recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources.

We're especially grateful to Wakaŋ Tipi Awaŋyaŋkapi as the Indigenous stewards of this place for their partnership and leadership. Learn more about and support their work.

Thanks to Mike Durenberger of Wavescribe Productions for creating this video.

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