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Dakota to Witness Change Through Women-led NGO Expediting Possibilities

A significant change is occurring in the field of land management and restoration work, and it is centered in the Twin Cities. Two nonprofit environmental organizations, Wakan Tipi Awanyankapi and Owámniyomni Okhódayapi, are leading the effort.

They were formerly mostly commanded by white men. Two Native American ladies are in charge of them now.

Wakan Tipi Awanyankapi’s current headquarters are located on the fifteenth story of the First National Bank building, which has a view of the Mississippi River and downtown St. Paul. Everything will alter as soon as the building and design of a welcoming center, which will be situated close to the Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary entrance, is finished.

Wakan Tipi Awanyankapi’s executive director is Maggie Lorenz. “Those who tend to the dwelling place of the sacred” is how the name is interpreted in Dakota.

Formerly, the group was called the Phalen Creek Project. Since 2019, Lorenz has served as the group’s leader.

“Our goal is to inspire people to respect and preserve our natural areas, as well as the holy places and cultural significance they contain,” stated Lorenz. Our restoration and stewardship initiatives, as well as our programs, truly stem from our traditional ecological knowledge and understanding of the land and the water as relatives. As a result, we take several different approaches than what I believe a conventional or mainstream environmental group would take.

Lorenz is a member of the Spirit Lake Dakota Nation and the Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwe.

Shelley Buck is joining her in changing the face of leadership. Southeast of the metro area, she is a citizen and the past president of the Prairie Island Indian Community.

Buck has been working two jobs for the past year. Both held the positions of president and vice president of Owámniyomni Okhódayapi, which is Dakota meaning “friends of the falls” and was the original English name of the organization.

The organization’s main goal is to preserve and honor the downtown Minneapolis stretch of the Mississippi. Over the years, it has also gone by several names, including Owamni, St. Anthony Falls, and perhaps most famously, the location of the Stone Arch Bridge.

“I have no life,” joked Buck. Life is work.
Lorenz and Buck had been friends for a long time. and are two of the strongest advocates for one another.
“When Lorenz asked if I thought she should accept the job she has, I said, ‘Hell yeah, go for it.'” I believe it will be fantastic. Buck remarked, “If they have faith in you, then go for it.”
According to Buck, this is a turning point for both groups as they become led by Native women.
Indigenous women running organizations like this is crucial because, as Dakota people, we live in a matriarchal society. The guardians of the family are women. It’s us who give life,” remarked Buck. Additionally, I believe that I differ slightly from many Dakota women. I do have a caring side.”

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