As an enrolled member of the Santee Sioux (Dakota) Tribe, Rod Steiner was awarded Diversity's "Bridging the Gap" Award for 2002 for his "Lifetime" of Service and Committment to the principles of "Diversity"and "Cultural Understanding" between the Native and Non-Native populations. Mr. Steiner is also a direct descendent of the Chiefs' Wapasha who once called Winona their homeland (Wapasha Prairie).
Being raised on the Santee Reservation, Rod had to witness (and overcome) the personal obstacles of poverty and racism common among Indian Reservations especially during the 1930 & 40's.
For most of his life, Rod has been active in various Church and Community volunteer activities often working with "At Risk" and inner city youth. For many years, he has served on the Mankato Reconciliation Pow Wow Committee coordinating the 50-100 yearly food and craft vendors. (This Mankato "healing" project was originally begin in 1972 to address the "Contempt and Hatred" felt between many whites and Indians since the Dakota Conflict and Hanging of the "38" Dakota Warriors there in 1862.) Today, this event has grown to become one of the largest "Off-Reservation" PowWows in the Midwest.
Mr. Steiner has also been serving (for several years) as one of Diversity Foundations Dakota/Native American consulting historians and advisors for the ongoing Wapasha Prairie Documentary. He has also agreed to be one of DF's advisors and coordinators for the upcoming "Wapasha Prairie/Dakota Homecoming and Gathering as part of Winona's GE04. Recently, Rod also was Co-Chairman of the 2002 Crow Creek Memorial & Reconciliation project at Ft. Thompson, South Dakota.
In presenting his award, Lyle Rustad (DF's Exec. Director), thanked Mr. Steiner for his many years of "tiredless work & efforts toward 'Reconciliation and Forgiveness' in helping overcome our State and Nations past and historic injustices, serving as a 'Model' and inspiration for all races and cultures."
From Left to Right: Dr. Bill McNeil, Leonard Wabasha, Winona Councilman Tim Breza, Rod Steiner, Winona Mayor Jerry Miller and Winona City Manager Eric Sorensen with Vernell and Hereditary ChiefErnest Wabasha VII in center of photo.
These Winona City Leaders were cited for their "Pro-Active" approach to addressing the rapidly changing race and cultural makeup of the Winona Community.
They were commended for their support and leadership in helping to sponsor the "Wapasha Prairie" Educational Documentary and the Dakota/Wapasha Prairie Home coming and Gathering as part of the upcoming Winona Grand Excursion 2004.
This film and Homecoming will pay tribute to Winona's early history and Chiefs' Wapasha and the other Dakota Native Americans who (prior to the arrival of the European) once lived and called this "Wapasha Prairie" area their Homeland. Many accounts also claim the present day name "Winona" (which means 1st born female in Dakotah), also was named in honor of Chief Wapasha's daughter.