Vernell and Ernest Wabasha with Diversity Foundation Chairman Ed Lhones
Vernell and Ernest Wabasha were presented Diversity Foundation's "Bridging the Gap" Award for 2001.
Vernell and Ernest Wabasha are shown here being presented the Diversity Foundation's "BTG" Award for 2001 by DF Chairman Ed Lohnes in a Minneapolis Ceremony. The Wabasha's were later honored in a special 2002 ceremony held at City Hall in Winona, Minnesota. (see attached Winona Daily News and Winona Post articles) This ceremony coincided with the Wabasha family visit, filming and Winona studio interviews associated with an upcoming educational Documentary based on the early lives of their ancestors Chiefs' Wapasha I, II & III.
These Chiefs' were the early leaders of the Mdewakaton band of the Dakota, who once lived and called Winona and Southeast Minnesota their home. This area was once called "Wapasha's Prairie" in their honor until the early European settlers arrived and government treaties were signed in the early 1850's forcing the Wapasha band and the entire Dakotah Nation to reservations in SW Minnesota. It has also been said the present day name "Winona" (means 1st born female in Dakotah), also was named in honor of Chief Wapasha's daughter.
Lyle Rustad, executive director of the Diversity Foundation, presents a "bridging the Gap" award to Hereditary Chief Ernest Wabasha VII, a direct descendent of Chief Wabasha, and his wife Vernell at the City Hall Friday for their "lifetime commitment and outstanding contributions toward improving cultural education, understanding and race relations between all citizens." also pictured is Norman Ellig, creator of the plaques. (Photo by Christina Eberhard).
Despite being hunters and warriors, the early Chiefs' Wapasha were considered "men of peace". They were often the principal signers of Peace Treaties and Trade agreements between their Dakotah people and the French, British and American governments. (Over the years, they continued to want to trust the Europeans despite the many lies and broken treaties they repeatedly encountered).
Like their Chief Wapasha ancestors before them, this modern day Wabasha family (Vernell, Ernie and son Leonard) have continued to dedicate their lives toward peace and reconciliation activities across Minnesota and the Midwest. In its "Bridging the Gap" presentations to the Wabasha's, Lyle Rustad (Ex. Dir. of Diversity Fd.) thanked the family for "your willingness to 'Reconcile & Forgive' the Europeans for our Nations Past and Historic Injustices have been extrordinary and helped set an example and begin a "ripple-effect" of forgiveness reaching across America.
Rustad along with DF Chr. Edward Lohnes went on to thank the Wabasha's for their life's work and committment toward equality and Human Rights for all cultures and people. Diversity and the City of Winona also expressed their appreciation to the Wabasha family for its full cooperation and support in assisting them in the production of the Wapasha Prairie Educational Documentary.
The Diversity Foundation has videotaped numerous hours of interviews with the Wabasha family and other Dakota elders and descendents over the past several years. In addition, they and others, have completed extensive research of early Winona and Wabasha family history necessary for this story. The foundation and City of Winona will utilize this material and supplemental footage to help, through this Video Documentary, to tell the story of this family and its contributions during this pivotal period in the formation of Minnesota.
Besides the Documentary, the story will be written in text, website and interactive CD Rom especially for use in schools, libraries and historical societys across Minnesota and the Midwest. It is also planned that the City of Winona will use this film as an educational piece and promo for its upcoming Winona 2004 Grand Excursion events. Negotiations are also underway with PBS and other Cable outlets to tell this most unique and historically accurate story. (long overdue and never before told).