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Native arts and culture returns to downtown Minneapolis this weekend

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Returning to Father Hennepin Bluffs Park this weekend after its inaugural run last year, Owa’mni: Falling Water Festival brings Native arts and culture to Minneapolis. The festival gets its name, “owa’mni,” from the Dakota language.

“It translates into falling or whirling water,” says event coordinator Denise Nelson. The site at Father Hennepin Bluffs Park “has been a sacred area for the Dakota people and the Ojibwe.”

The festival grew out of the Park Board’s Indigenous Music and Movies in the Park program, which started seven years ago. Last year, organizers were approached to make it a one-day happening. It was so successful that they are making it an even bigger event this year.

Last year’s festival included indigenous art demonstrators. This year they are expanding it to include art vendors and community organizations. One of the highlights will be lacrosse demonstrations. Lacrosse is an indigenous sport that was used long ago to solve disputes. Artisans who actually make lacrosse sticks will be on hand to show how they put them together from ash tree wood.

There will also be a stage featuring live music and performers, with poet R. Vincent Moniz Jr. presiding as emcee. The lineup includes Scatter Their Own, an alternative rock duo from the Pine Ridge Reservation; Bluedog, a blues/rock group based in Minneapolis; and Wade Fernandez, from the Menominee nation of Wisconsin, who is known for playing guitar and flute and singing all at once. “He’ll loop the guitar while playing the guitar. It’s amazing to see,” says Nelson.

The artists showing their work range from people creating traditional crafts to contemporary artists. Among the many offerings are birchbark picture frames, beadwork, corn-husk dolls, and painting. In addition, there will be book-making demonstrations by the Mill City Museum.

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The Owa’mni Festival also includes the delicious food of Sean Sherman, known for his pre-colonial offerings, and Tatanka Food Truck, selling local, organic, and traditional meats.

IF YOU GO:

Owa’mni: Falling Water Festival

4 to 8 p.m. Saturday, August 1

Father Hennepin Bluffs Park

Free