The Falls Initiative Community Conversations


Friends of the Falls and the Native American Community Development Institute (NACDI) are partnering with the City of Minneapolis and Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board to consider the future of the Upper Lock at Owámniyomni (meaning “turbulent waters” in the Dakota language), St. Anthony Falls. The lock closed to commercial navigation in 2015 and now presents an opportunity to not only restore public access to the river, but to create a place of healing and celebration that acknowledges the past and advances a more equitable and inclusive future.

Attend an upcoming Community Conversation to connect with Native leaders, the design team, and neighbors and discuss topics like restoration, programming, connectivity, and economic opportunity.

The first session will be held virtually on February 15 from 5-7pm. Robert Lilligren, Carrie Day Aspinwall and Karen Diver will be joined by Native Partnership Council members Jewell Arcoren, Juanita Espinosa and Wakinyan LaPointe to discuss how we can approach this project from an Indigenous perspective. 

We invite all in our Minneapolis community to join the conversation and shape the future of the Falls.


About the panelists:

  • Robert Lilligren is President and CEO of NACDI, an appointed member of the Metropolitan Council and Vice Chair of the Metropolitan Urban Indian Directors (MUID). He is enrolled in the White Earth Ojibwe Nation.
  • Carrie Day Aspinwall, CDA Enterprises, facilitates meetings of the Native Partnership Council. Previously Carrie engaged residents, stakeholders and institutions across Minneapolis’ seventy-one neighborhoods in her role with the Neighborhood and Community Relations Department. Carrie is an enrolled citizen of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe/Minnesota Chippewa Tribe.
  • Karen Diver is currently serving as the Senior Advisor to the President for Native American Affairs at the University of Minnesota after previous roles at the University of Arizona and the College of St. Scholastica. Karen was also an appointee of President Obama as the Special Assistant to the President for Native American Affairs, and she served as Chairwoman of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa from 2007-2015.
  • Jewell Arcoren is a ‘change agent’ and community activist. She is currently serving as Executive Director for Wicoie Nandagikendan and is committed to Dakota and Ojibwe language revitalization at the early childhood level. Jewell is an enrolled member of the Sisseton Wahpeton Nation.
  • Juanita G. Corbine Espinosa is an enrolled member of the Spirit Lake Nation in North Dakota with blood lines that connect to the Ojibwe of Lac Courte Oreilles in Wisconsin and Turtle Mountain Ojibwe in North Dakota. Juanita is a dedicated community organizer, currently working at the University of Minnesota-Department of Medicine Northern Range Satellite Center. She coordinates with 10 institutions across the US focused on American Indian research.
  • Wakinyan Skye LaPointe is Sicangu Lakota, an Indigenous Human Rights advocate, and Co-Convener of the Mni Ki Wakan: Indigenous Water Decade. He centers Lakota knowledge, language, and ways of life in his work across human rights, working in partnership with Indigenous Peoples and youth.


The Falls Initiative: Community Conversations

February 15 – A Story Disrupted: Indigenous Perspectives

March 16 – Relationships with the River: Water is Life

April 12 – Restoring a Story Disrupted: What Can This Place Become?

May 21 – Building Connections

June 15 – A Powerful Place for Partnerships

Register to attend the February 15 event here:

And learn more about future Community Conversations at