Oheyawahe (2100 Pilot Knob Rd) is a 112-acre site in Mendota Heights on the National Register of Historic Places. Overlooking confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers, the site is considered sacred by Dakota people; the name Oheyawahe can be translated as, “A sacred place much visited; the place where people go for burials.” The area was inhabited by the Dakota and other Native Americans long before the establishment of Fort Snelling in 1820, and continues to be an important place for the Dakota community and other Indigenous people.
After the land of Pilot Knob hill was offered for sale by the U.S. government in the 1800s, it was purchased by a succession of private owners. In 1848 the site was proposed as the site of the Minnesota territorial capital due to its strategic location and stunning views. In 2002, when developers announced plans to build 157 town homes on the north slope, Native Americans, local residents, historians, archaeologists, faith communities and environmental groups united to preserve the land as a public natural area.
The City of Mendota Heights acquired 8.2 acres of the land in 2006, then acquired a contiguous 14.4-acre parcel in 2008. An additional one-acre residential parcel was acquired in 2020, with a goal of preserving the entirety of this historic site.
In 2019, the City formed a task force - made up of representatives from the City, Dakota County, Acacia Park Cemetery and Pilot Knob Preservation Association (PKPA) - to focus on capital improvements, natural resources management and interpretation.
Native restoration of the site began in 2006. The project is now in phase II of its restoration efforts, with the ultimate goal of restoring the site to pre-settlement vegetative communities, including native prairie and oak savanna. Mendota Heights partners with Great River Greening to aid in the restoration of the Oheyawahe/Pilot Knob Historic Area.
Accessibility and Education
In May 2023, Governor Tim Walz approved a capital investment funding allocation of $1.85 million to the City of Mendota Heights for improvements at Oheyawahe. A primary goal of this project is to provide safe visitor access and bring the site in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Improvements will enhance interpretation and understanding of the unique character of the site.
For more on this project, visit MendotaHeightsMN.gov/Projects.