"Bridging The Gap Between People Of
All Cultures And Ethnicity "
The History of Vern Ashley (In His Own Words)

A short version of the story of Vern Ashley as told in his own words.

Vern's grandfather was one of the 38 men hanged at Mankato Minnesota in 1862 after the US-Dakota Conflict. His ancestors were exiled from Minnesota when they were forcefully moved to South Dakota. Vern grew up on an impoverished indian reservation. The reservation was destroyed by a flood -- along with other reservations -- when dams were constructed along the Missouri River.

In spite of these hardships, Vern Ashley became a success story and brought his children to be as well. This is his story.


More Broken Promises.
The tragic story of how the US Government destroyed several Native American Communities with water.


The above video is legendary Dakota Elder Vern Ashley telling the tragic untold story of how the poorest Indian Reservation in the country — the Crow Creek Indian Community in South Dakota — went from being proud and self-reliant to one of extreme poverty and hopelessness due to the lies and broken promises of the Army Corps of Engineers and the BIA.

DF, along with its multi-media partner, Diversity Productions, has recorded over one thousand hours of video footage, having documented the stories of tribal elders and leaders in order to tell their side of history.

Diversity Foundation has also organized and documented numerous Euro-Native American Reconciliation and Historic Events in communities across Southern Minnesota (i.e. Winona, Rochester, Mankato, Birch Coulee, Wabasha, Rushford, Pipestone) as well as filming various events on the majority of the Dakota/Lakota Reservations across the Great Plains and Reserves in Manitoba, Canada.

Members of the Dakota Nation walked from Flandreau, South Dakota to the Minnesota/South Dakota State line at Pipestone, Minnesota. A ceremoney and reading of the proclamation soon followed.

One of the major highlights was when Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton signed a proclamation denouncing Governor Alexandra Ramseys decision in 1862 to exhile the Dakota from Minnesota and to welcome them home during the Flandreau Reservation's “Legacy of Survival”.

Minnesota Govenor Dayton's offical Dakota proclamation and Flandreau's "Legacy and Healing" ceremonies were long overdue and a culmination of many reconciliation and educational wacipi's and homecomings in cities and communities all across southern Minnesota.

Over the past 20 years Diversity has recorded well over twelve hundred hours of interviews with elders, their unknown stories, unknown parts of history, and reconciliation events.

The majority of these native elders and leaders have passed on to the “Spirit World”. It is Diversity's intent that these stories and unknown history be preserved and made available to audiences including schools, history centers, librarys, and for documentaries. We have been fortunate to document most of their stories, but time is of the essence as the opportunity to document others is running out.

Our work recording forgotten history as well as our reconciliation and outreach efforts such as providing urgent supplies and service projects and improving housing and social-economic conditions for Crow Creek and other impoverished Indigenous communities is of continuing urgency.


Vern Ashley being interviewed back in the 50's

Vern Ashley gives a speech about life on Indian Reservations and Native American programs during the Great Depression. This event was taped at the South Dakota State Historical Society at Pierre, South Dakota, in the year 2006.


How I Met Vern Ashley
Go Here to Read Vern Ashley's Obituary
Go Here to Read Vern Ashley - A Leader of the People
Go Here to Read a Summary of Vern Ashley's Life Story
Vern Ashley Celebrates His 95th Birthday - Picture Gallery
Vern Ashley Page



The Diversity Foundation is in the process of developing a documentary on the life of Vern Ashley. We have already obtained the the services of award winning directors Lynn Salt and David Mueller.



David Mueller, Lynn SaltDave Mueller and Lynn Salt Bios ...
David Mueller and Lynn Salt porduced and directed the award winning documentary "A Good Day To Die" and will be working with Diversity Foundation to produce films in the future. Some of their accomplishments include:

...co-producing Dalai Lama Renaissance (2007), a documentary about the Dalai Lama narrated by Harrison Ford, now in the top 300 box office-grossing documentaries of all time

...directing and co-writing Beautiful Wave

...directing principal actors on second unit for Universal Pictures on the episodic television shows “New York Undercover” (Fox) and “The Wright Verdicts” (CBS)

...directing segments for “Dateline NBC”

...directing national commercial spots for Panasonic and Pacific Bell

...selling an original screenplay The Haworth Bells, based on the lives of the Bronte sisters (Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights) to Disney Studios

Click Here To Read David Mueller's Bio...
Click Here To Read Lynn Salt's Bio...



David Mueller, Ed Lohnes, Lynn Salt, Lyle Rustad"A Good Day To Die"
Documentary About Dennis Banks ...

"A Good Day To Die" tells the story of Dennis Banks, who co-founded the American Indian Movement (A.I.M.) in 1968 to call attention to the plight of urban Indians in Minneapolis, Minnesota and the rise of A.I.M. itself. Much of the film's energy is focused on the early and controversial actions of A.I.M. in Washington DC, Custer, South Dakota and Wounded Knee. .  Click Here For More Information ...

Dennis BanksDennis Banks Interview ...
Dennis Banks is a Native American leader, teacher, lecturer, activist, and author. He was born in 1937 on the Leech Lake Indian Reservation in Northern Minnesota.

At an early age he was removed from his home and sent to boarding schools, run by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, in which native Indian languages were forbidden.

In 1968, he co-founded the American Indian Movement (AIM) along with a number of other Native American men in Minneapolis Minnesota. Click Here To Listen to Dennis Bank's Recent Interview...



Over more than fifteen years, the Diversity Foundation Inc. (DF) has led or aided humanitarian relief drives (beds, furniture, and other household goods) from SE Minnesota to economically disadvantaged Indian Reservations across the Great Plains. DF is also working with the US Marine Corps Toys For Tots program, having delivered toys to over 14 under-served Reservations.

DF remains involved and committed toward improving intercultural relations and education.


DF was recently honored when JoAnne Bird, internationally acclaimed native american Artist, offered to donate a limited edition of her award-winning litho art prints, to help raise awareness and funding for our work.

You can acquire some of this art by going to the Native Art Store and purchasing one of JoAnne Bird's featured art prints


HELP SUPPORT DIVERSITY FOUNDATION by ACQUIRING A JOANNE BIRD "LIMITED EDITION" ART PRINT

Go HERE to read more about JoAnne Bird.

SculptureDedication of the Chief Wabasha II Sculpture...
On Septemeber 18th, 2010, the city of Wabasha, Minnesota dedicated a a ten foot bronze sculpture made in the likeness of Chief Wabasha II, designed and scultpted by Joanne Bird. along with a new fountain, designed and sponsored by John Bouquet. Both now grace the city of Wabasha's Mississippi River front next at the National Eagle Center. 
Go Here To View Photo Gallery and Dedication Video...
HELP SUPPORT DIVERSITY FOUNDATION by ACQUIRING A JOANNE BIRD "LIMITED EDITION" ART PRINT


Click Here to Read About the Diversity Foundation "In The News"

Here are the latest stories from DiversityFoundation.org

Lyle with FriendsHistory of the Dakota Homecoming and Reconciliation Program ...
The Dakota Homecoming and Reconciliation Program actually began in the mid 1990's when Diversity Foundation Executive Director Lyle Rustad, Board Chairman Edward Lohnes, Winona Mayor Jerry Miller, and Winona City Manager Eric Sorensen began meeting with various Dakota Elders and uncovered a need for reconciliation between the Dakota people - who's ancestors occupied southern Minnesota before the Treaties of 1851 - and the descendents of the white settlers who moved into that area.

The following interview is with former Winona city manager Eric Sorensen. In this interview he discusses the role of Lyle Rustad, Ed Lohnes, and the Diversity Foundation during the early days of Winona's Dakota Homecoming.


Eric Sorensen Interview


Sidney ByrdTestimony - Rev. Sidney Byrd and his daughter Pamela...
The Winona Gathering holds special meaning to my father, 92 year old Sidney Byrd and myself. We come every year to share our culture, our past, and most important, our hearts with everyone at the Gathering.

I wish to thank the city of Winona, the people of Winona, and Diversity Foundation Inc. for the great times and wonderful people at the Gathering.
Click HERE to Read the entire letter...
Click HERE to Read the original letter in PDF format...

Ceremony Starts Year of Mourning
for Ancestors at Indian Heights Park

With songs, storytelling, and the passing of a sacred pipe, American Indians from Rochester and beyond held a ceremony Tuesday (April 25, 2012) to start a year of mourning for their ancestors at Indian Heights Park on the city's northwest side.

“We’re going to help our relatives get home,” said ceremony leader Peter Lengkeek of the Crow Creek Sioux Reservation in South Dakota as he stood at the park’s entrance in a circle of roughly 40 people.
Go Here For More...

NAACP2010 NAACP Banquet ...
The 2010 Freedom Fund Banquet again honored Dr. Rev Martin Luther King Jr. This is the coverage of the 2010 Banquet when Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar introduced the keynote speaker Dr. Retha King.  Click Here For 2010 Photo Gallery and More Information...

Crow Creek LongridersJoseph Gomer Interview ...
Retired U.S. Air Force Major Joseph Gomer served as a fighter pilot with World War II's famed Tuskegee Airmen. Gomer was born on June 20, 1920, in Iowa Falls, Iowa. From the time he was a small boy, he dreamed of flying airplanes.

Click Here to Read More of this story ...


Dakota 38 + 2 Ride Dec. 26, 2012 ...
On December 26, 1862, the largest mass execution took place in Mankato, Minnesota. 150 years later a ceremony was held at Mankato's Reconciliation Park to remember the event.

Go Here For Photo Gallery ...

Indian Tribal College Fund Raising Event ...
Photo Gallery
Go Here For More...

US MarinesU.S. Marines Honored With Ceremony...
On Wednesday, November 10th, 2010, the 235th Anniversary of the United States Marine Corps, Edward Lohnes and Lyle Rustad of Diversity Foundation, Inc. honored the Marines with a traditional Native American blanket ceremony.
 Click Here To View Photo Gallery and Video...

Toys For Tots Diversity Foundation Partners with the Marine Corps Toys For Tots Program again in 2012...
The Diversity Foundation partners with the Twin Cities Marine Corps to make this and every year's Christmas a happier one for Minnesota inner city youth and over fourteen thousand youth from thirteen disadvantaged Native American communities from Minnesota and across the Mid-West, by helping to organize volunteers and facilitating these deliveries.


 Click Here To View Photos and to Learn More Information...

 Click Here To View Photos for 2012...

 Click Here To View Photos for 2010...

 Click Here To View Photos for 2009...


RestorationCrow Creek Cemetary Restoration ...
"Just a shame we don't keep these graves up," former Crow Creek Tribal member, Vern Ashley, 95, says. "The cemetery is one of many things that need attention at Crow Creek." A delegation from the Rochester Trinity Presbyterian Churche has been working on this restoration project for over four years now. Go Here For More...

Why the Crow Creek Cemetery Restoration Project is important ...
It's more than mowing lawns and fixing grave markers. This video explains.
Go Here For More...


Vern AshleyVideo Project - Stories of the Dakota Elders (and other Native Americans) ...
Here is a selection of interviews that Diversity has done throughout the years. We are currently in the planning stage of developing a documentary film that would include these and other interview like them.
Go Here For More...

Big Eagle SteinerPat Big Eagle and Rod Steiner Interview ...
Pat Big Eagle is a direct descendant of Chief Big Eagle and Rod Steiner is a descendant of Chief Wapasha III. Both Chief Big Eagle and Chief Wapasha III pushed for peace during the Minnesota Dakota Conflict of 1862. These are some of the stories of two of the descendants of two great chiefs.
Go Here To Go To The Stories of the Dakota Elders Page...
Go Here To Go To Rod Steiners Page...

Rod SteinerRod Steiner with Hereditary Chief Wabasha VI ...
This is a re-edited version of Rod Steiner's speech at the 2002 Crow Creek Memorial dedication. He talks about the history of the Dakota people, their 1863 exile, and what the Dakota women had to endure at Crow Creek duirng the late 1800s.
Go Here For More...

Peter LengkeekPeter Lengkeek ...
A series of videos where Peter talks about the history of the Dakota people and what they had to endure during the Dakota exile of 1863.
Go Here For More...

Clarence Wolf Guts - Last Lakota CodetalkerClarence Wolf Guts - The Last Lakota Code Talker...
Clarence Wolf Guts is not the sort of hero who capitalizes on his exploits; he hasn't written any books or run for office, and you can count his speaking appearances on one hand. He lives almost as simply today as when he was a boy on the Rosebud Reservation in the 1920s.
Go Here For More...

Lyle with Eli TaylorEli Taylor ...
After a interview at the 1997 Mankato Reconciliation ceremonies, shortly before his passing at age 92, Eli Taylor strongly urged Diversity Foundation Executive Director Lyle Rustad to “keep on working toward ‘Reconciliation’ and healing between the Native and white people” and that we should continue filming, recording and telling the History and stories of “all the Dakota elders before it is too late and this culture and history will be lost forever.”

Click Here to read more of the story...


MHS MeetingMeeting with the Minesota Historical Society to discuss the anniversary of the Dakota Uprising in 1862 ...
On September 17, 2010, representatives of various Dakota Native American Communities met in St. Peter, Minnesota to discuss the 150th anniversary of the Dakota uprising. The building where they met is located only a short distance away from Traverse Des Sioux (meaning the “crossing of the Sioux”) an area of the Minnesota River where people crossed.

Click Here to Read More of this story ...


Donita LoudnerCrow Creek Cemetery Restoration Project - New Video ...
Donita Loudner, member of the Crow Creek Reservation, talks about what the Cemetery Restoration Project means to her.

Click Here to watch the video...


Crow Creek LongridersCrow Creek Long Riders - New Videos ...
Peter Lengkeek, member of the Crow Creek Tribal Council and the Crow Creek Long Riders talks about the meaning of the ride from Fort Snelling to St. Louis and to Crow Creek and some of the history of his people.

Click Here to Read More of this story ...


Larry WeldingDiversity Foundation's Scholarship and Education Program at Work ...
The Diversity Foundation of Minnesota is proud to annouce its first graduate from the Diversity Foundation Education and Scholarship Program - Larry Cortez from the Crow Creek Indian Reservation in South Dakota.

Click Here to Read More of this story ...
Click Here to learn More about our Education and Scholarship Program ...
Click Here to make a Donation ...


Delivering FurnitureMore Deliveries ...
Diversity Foundation of Minnesota recently delivered two semi-truck loads of furniture and other goods to the Santee Indian Reservation in Nebraska and to the Crow Creek Indian Reservation in South Dakota. The items delivered included beds, sofas, love seats, recliners, large flat screen televisons and much more.

On the Santee Reservation alone, 192 people were helped by our latest deliveries.

Click Here to Read More of this story ...
Click Here to learn More about our the services we provide ...
Click Here to make a Donation ...



Here are earlier updates for DiversityFoundation.org

ArtJoAnne Bird Art Gallery ...
Bird's paintings depict her Native American heritage, mainly portraying the rich traditional way of life in a contemporary style. Much of her work is spiritual in nature and timeless. Her work often employs rich, bold colors in a fluid motion presenting images of warriors and horses that seem to be approaching the viewer straight off the canvas. 

Click Here To View Her Art Gallery and Short Video of Artist JoAnne Bird's Artwork ...


Click Here to View and/or Purchase Her Outstanding Artwork at Diversity's On-Line Store...



Audrey Wolf and LyleAudrey Wolf Discusses Crisis at her family's South Dakota Crow Creek Indian Reservation and the need to assist Diversity Foundation with its Dakota Reconciliation and Outreach...

Hello Lyle,

A real example of the water/housing crises in Crow Creek is one my sister and her family faces. She is the only one in the household with a job. Her daughter cannot find a job. They cannot use the water to drink. They don't like to use it for bathing and laundering. Her stairs to the basement have collapsed on one side. She can't afford to fix it. She has four grandchildren plus herself and her daughter using these stairs daily.

My sister desperately needs new or used appliances- washer, dryer, stove, and refrigerator. Next year, she plans to move into Chamberlain [South Dakota] and leave the family homestead. That is a real shame because that land has been there for our family for generations now. She has no choice, they need drinkable water and a house fit and safe to live in.

Clikc Here To Read Audrey's Entire Letter...

Audry WolfAudrey Wolf Interview ...
Audrey Wolf works as an accountact for the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. She grew up on the Crow Creek reservation and has family members that still live there. In this interview she talks about the dire conditions at the Crow Creek Indian Reservation.  Click Here For More Information ...


NAACP Banquet2011 NAACP Freedom Fund Banquet Honoring Re. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr....
The official theme of the 2011 NAACP Freedom Fund Banquet was "One Nation, One Dream," but the underlying message was "We can do better."

St. Cloud, Minnesota Mayor Dave Kleis said during his mayoral proclamation, "This community has come a long way."
 Click Here For 2011 NAACP Photo Gallery and Video...

Eric Sorensen, Lyle RustadEric Sorensen Retirement Party ...
Eric Sorensen, Winona, Minnesota city manager and Diversity Foundation long time friend and advisor retires from his duties as city manager and people throw him a party in his honor.  Click Here For More Information ...

Food Program Frito Lay Corporation partners with the Diversity Foundation to collect food ...
Frito Lay held a food drive as part of their annual mid-west regional conference September and October 2010 and collected over 3,000 pounds of food. The picture on the left shows leaders of the Frito-Lay/PepsiCo Midwest Region, along with two members of the Twin Cities Marine Corps, weighing the food which was collcted to help the Crow Creek Indian Reservation in central South Dakota.
 Click Here To View Photos and More Information ...

Frito LayDiversity receives donation to help Crow Creek...
Diversity Foundation, Inc. received approximately $2,000.00 from the Dodge County Boots and Saddles Club. Lyle Rustad, Diverstiy Foundation Executive Director received the check from Robert Kocinski at the Frito Lay coporate office in Bloomington, Minnesota. Robert Kocinski is the Frito Lay Regional Manager for the Madison, Wisconsin area as well as a member of the Dodge County Boots and Saddle Club. The money was used to cover part of the expenses involved in transporting semi-loads of much needed beds, furniture, food, clothes, and other household supplies. Go Here To Watch A Short Video of the 2010 Beaver Dam Halloween Parade...

Golf CartFrito Lays 2010 Golf Outing ...
A Photo Gallery of Frito Lay's 2010 golf Outing at the Black Bear Golf Course in Carlton Minnesota. The course is part of Fond Du Lac's Black Bear Casino and Resort. Frito Lay is one of the Diversity Foundation's Sponsors.

Click Here to See the Photo Gallery...


Mattresses With Your Help, The Diversity Foundation Delivers Food & Furniture ...
Slumberland, Kahler Inn and Suites, other Rochester Minnesota area hotels, as well as other supporters, donated furniture while the Frito Lay Corporation donated 3,000 pounds of food for underserved Dakota Indian Reservations - Both of which are very much needed. Thanks to help from our supporters, the semi-trucks rolled into Crow Creek bringing food, and beds.  Go Here For More Information ...

Crow CreekCrow Creek: The Forgotten People...
One of the counties which the Crow Creek Reservation is located, Buffalo County, is the poorest county in the United States with an average per capita income of just over $5,000.00. Unemployment on the reservation can be as high as 80-90 percent. The state wide unemployment rate is around nine percent. Today the Crow Creek Reservation and Buffalo County have the highest poverty level in the entire country, and living conditions are dire!
 Go Here For More...

Ed Lohnes Sr.Edward A. Lohnes Sr. ...
Our thoughts, prayers, and condolences go out to Ed Lohnes Jr., C.E.O. of the Diversity Foundation, and his sisters, other family members and friends on the passing of Edward A. Lohnes Sr.

Edward A. Lohnes Sr. age 88, of Brooklyn Center, formerly of NE Mpls., passed away Dec. 1, 2010 after a short illness.
Go Here For More ...

Back To SchoolDiversity Foundation's Assistance with Scholarship and Educational Programs ...
Diversity Foundation, Inc. is attempting to make a difference in some of the underserved Dakota/Native Indian Reservations across the Great Plains. Over the past years, the Diversity Foundation has begun facilitating scholarships and financial aid in order to provide educational opportuities for Dakota Reservation youth. Go Here For More...

YIMAYouth Initiation Mentoring Academies...
Youth Initiative Mentoring Academies (YIMA) is a not-for-profit organization founded by "Sister" Mamie Singleton who also serves as a Diversity Foundation Advisory Board Member. YIMA sponsors selected programs for at-risk youth that exposes them to careers, helps them to develop leadership skills, and facilitates civic responsibilities. 

ReconciliationDakota Reconciliation ...
Since 2002, when Rod Steiner & Diversity Foundation, Inc.begin their Dakota Outreach & Reconciliation efforts, well over 30 semi-loads of beds, clothes, food & other household items have been donated by the southeastern Minnesota cities of Winona, Rochester, Rushford-Peterson, St. Charles, Wabasha-Kellogg, and others. Go Here For More...

HomecomingDakota Homecoming ...
The festival is known as “Otakuye Hdihunipi” meaning All relatives have come home, and takes place every year in the city of Winona Minnesota. It is an experience like no other where Wasicun (Caucasian) and Dakota worship, dance, feast, share stories, and play together along the shores of beautiful Lake Winona. 2010 was the 7th annual inviting of the descendents of the original people who once called the Winona area their ancestrial home before the 1851 treaties.  Go Here For More...
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