Centering an indigenous understanding of place through relationships to water and language.

Most people don't realize that the source of Saint Paul’s municipal drinking water is the Mississippi River. We drink the Mississippi every day. The river is part of our bodies and the story of our place. Our lives literally depend upon this relationships.

Too many people are also unaware that the area of the Mississippi River known as ‘Saint Paul’ was and still is a Dakota place, the origin place of Dakota people. Ceremonial sites, many of them on or adjacent to the River, were used long ago and are still used today. The places where ancestors are buried are still honored today. The village sites where Dakota people lived and the rivers Dakota people navigated (changed though they have been over the last 150 years) keep their place of importance in the hearts of Dakota people.

Dakota Water Bar was a Water Bar that served drinking waters sourced from Saint Paul and other nearby communities, served in Dakhóta language, and with stories about indigenous relationships to land, water, spirituality, and contemporary environmental justice movements.

This new iteration of the Water Bar project was a collaboration with indigenous artists, scholars, and language experts, convened and organized by project partners through the Healing Place Collaborative with Dakhóta Iápi Okhódakičhiye (Dakota Language Society).

More information about Dakota people and places can be found on the Bdote Memory Map, a resource developed by artist Mona Smith with the Minnesota Humanities Center.