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.
Whether you're red, white, green, yellow, or multi-colored, we are all one of Mother Earth's Children. We all laugh and enjoy each other's company all the same.
We come every year looking forward for the fellowship of friends we've met over the years. Sometimes just to sit and visit, sometimes to discuss the problems of this old world, but always just to be together and enjoy it.
Some people ask "Why go to Winona?" Why care so much when they ask us to come?
I just remember what an old wise Grandfather once told me, "If all you ever tasted was the bitterness of tears and sorrows; when you finally taste the sweet water of forgiveness, a wise person will like the taste of the sweetness and wash away the bitterness and sorrow and open his heart to change. The unwise will still only taste the bitterness and sorrow and never open his heart." I choose to taste the sweetness and open my heart to all the wonderful things that can and will be.
I wish to thank the City of Winona, the people of Winona, and the Diversity Foundation, Inc. for the great times and wonderful people at the Gathering. Also for the best birthday party a person could have. Since the Gathering falls a day or two from my birthday and so many friends are there, I choose it to be my celebration. Great times, food, and friends, what more could a person ask for?
My father loves to share the stories of his past and personal history, so with his humor he shares his stories and he loves to hear the stories of his new friends. Next to fishing, the Gathering is the best thing of summer. Last year, while in Winona, Dad and a new Winona friend went fishing. A dream come true for him and a day he still speaks of with fondness.
So, people of Winona and Diversity Foundation Inc. Thank you for some of our best memories and the spirit of the open hand you offer. I shall accept that hand and reach out with my other hand and maybe, just maybe, we can start a circle of understanding that can circle our whole Mother Earth.
Sidney H. Byrd,
Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribal Members
CROW CREEK WELLNESS COMMITTEE
PO Box 94
Ft. Thompson, South Dakota 57339
Diversity Foundation Inc
Po Box 2013
Maple Grove, Minnesota 55311 Feb 26, 2008
I want to take a few minutes and personally thank you for all for the wonderful help, hope and opportunities the Diversity Foundation of Minnesota has brought into the lives of so many here on our Crow Creek Reservation.
The first project that came to mind was the assistance received enabling Crow Creek to bring the South Dakota Lions Foundation Mobile Screening Unit (MSU) to Fort Thompson’s Health Fair and West Bend District Wacipi. We were unable to find a South Dakota Lions Club to sponsor our two events; the advantage of having a Lions Club sponsor would be the overall cost of $200 that includes unit transportation and medical supplies for screening; without a sponsor the cost was significantly higher with a minimal amount for each screening. Diversity Foundation found us a Minnesota Lions Club Chapter from his home town of Rushford to help sponsor both events. It’s interesting to note well over 65% of those screened required some type of follow-up healthcare.
Diversity’s assistance with acquiring and transporting over 2000 new toys & books for our youth from the Marine Toy for Tots drive in Minneapolis for each of the past two years. Once here, the toys were distributed throughout the three districts. The smiling faces on both children and parents faces made the long hours we volunteered to complete the project well worth the efforts.
Over the past several years, Diversity has organized Collection drives in Winona, Rochester and across SE Minnesota and arranged transportation for numerous semi trucks and trailer loads of used furniture, bedding, clothing, winter coats, boots and shoes for distribution to over 250 households throughout Crow Creek since 2005. Community members still asking about the remaining items in storage at Winona and Rochester that are still awaiting funding for transportation.
Assistance in securing needed medical items the past two years. Last year our Ambulance received medical supplies; this year Crow Creek Diabetes Wellness Center will be the beneficiary. With our Tribes extreme financial shortcomings, anything to help keep our costs down is appreciated.
Assisting our Dakota and Native youth in receiving secondary education at St Mary’s University, SE Technical College in Winona, MN and Mayo Clinic’s PA Program. What an opportunity for them to excel.
Interviewing our Crow Creek Elders Documentary. Many of us at Crow Creek are curious of finding out who we are and where we came from. The past two President Day holidays in February have been declared “Chiefs Day” here on Crow Creek. During last year’s holiday, Crow Creek honored one of our first tribal chairmen, Vern Ashley. Mr. Ashley helped prepare our tribe’s original Constitution and by laws and I’ve always felt should have a hand in helping amend them to reflect needed changes. He is in his 90’s and has so much to share yet and again thanks to Lyle & Diversity, who have been filming and documenting Mr. Ashley and other Crow Creek elders to help us tell our story & preserve our early history. Our cultural committee has spent endless hours researching our tribes history. Photos have been secured thru South Dakota Historical Society and Corp of Engineers and have been shared with the community during various events. This past week during “Chiefs Day” there was a small wacipi for the youth that was warmly received. We are hopeful that Diversity will finally be able to secure the needed funding to help us record remaining elders & archive this all important Crow Creek story & documentary.
Diversity helped provide the assistance from the Prairie Island Indian Community on behalf of Crow Creek’s Habitat for Humanity Housing Program of $ 5,000. Crow Creek Reservation is in desperate need of housing with hundreds on our waiting list. Many existing homes are poorly build & energy inefficient. The Power Companies high fuel and electricity prices cause monthly cutoff crisis with our high unemployment.
Dakota Hunkpati Cemetary Restoration Project – Diversity Foundation has coordinated efforts between the churches and communities on the Crow Creek Reservation and Trinity Presbyterian Church of America from Rochester MN. Earlier this month Trinity Presbyterian Church of Rochester, MN made their second visit to Crow Creek after on-site visits to four cemeteries’ to determine greatest need, what materials are needed and the most feasible direction to begin. Although St John’s Episcopal Church in Crow Creek District demonstrated the most need; efforts would begin in April 2008 with Christ Episcopal and the Presbyterian cemeteries both in Fort Thompson as these two cemeteries were the most visible and would help serve as a model for other cemetery restoration projects.
Diversity Foundation of Minnesota, The City of Winona, Minnesota and the Winona-Dakota Unity Alliance have offered assistance to the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe in the form of grant writing & making improvements to the water utility system critically needed throughout the reservation.
I’ve only mentioned some of the projects that I’ve had direct dealing with Diversity Foundation with. In fact, helping us secure your Rushford, Minnesota Lions Club sponsor for Crow Creek was our first project together back in 2006. However, Diversity has been involved with recording our elders and assisting other Crow Creek programs going back to 2002, when Lyle filmed the Crow Creek Dakota Memorial and Monument Dedication at the Big Bend dam, which for the first time, honored and acknowledged our Dakota ancestors (mostly women & children) who were tragically exiled here from Minnesota in 1863.
Our needs at our Crow Creek Reservation seem so great at times it’s overwhelming but it’s a nice feeling to know that we are never really alone. There are others willing to take the time and make the commitment to help and for that I’m extremely grateful. Thank you Diversity Foundation for finding people like Lyle and all your volunteers who really do listen and understand our need for a better future for our children and grandchildren.
If there is anything I could ever do to help Diversity Foundation with, please let me know.
Crow Creek Wellness Committee-
Buffalo County Commissioner – Ft Thompson District 3
Enrolled member Crow Creek Sioux Tribe
Dear Lyle & Diversity Foundation;
I am writing this letter on behalf of the people of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe. We want to say THANK YOU ALL, for your genourosity and compassion shown to our people by your Minnesota communities. Thank you is not enough for everything that your people have done for us here in South Dakota. It is good to know that there are people out there that still care and we are not forgotten. The daily struggles that we go through here on the reservation to keep our families feed, clothed, the lights on, even simple things mean alot to us, the help that has come to us from you is unbeliveable, we cannot express how grateful we are.
Once again THANK YOU ALL.
PRAYERS & HOPE TO ALL
Crow Creek & Diversity Foundation Distribution Coordinator
Fort Thompson, South Dakota
P.S. There are alot of people here that want to come to next years gathering and homecoming, so we hope to meet you all someday to thank you in person.
To Diversity Foundation and City of Winona,
On behalf of the people of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe and the Big Eagle family, I would like to express our gratitude and appreciation for the dedication and time spent organizing the various drives for donations to the people on our reservation.
Please know that every item was very much appreciated, distributed and given to the people who needed it most, particularly the elderly, children and the families who were most needy. Your generosity has benefited many people and although there is so much more need, this was a start which fulfilled the most basic needs.
However, as the winter season approaches there is a need for winter outerwear and blankets for families who cannot afford these basic essentials. Any donations to this cause would be humbly appreciated.
Please accept our deepest gratitude and this letter of thanks to Diversity and all those Communities in southern Minnesota who were involved in this effort to alleviate the burden of those who cannot afford these simple, basic needs.
Duane and Diane Big Eagle
on behalf of the Big Eagle family
and the people of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe
Fort Thompson, South Dakota
Lyle and Ed,
Thanks for keeping me in the email chain and sorry I have not been able to be effective in leveraging St. Mary's University to become involved in your efforts. I fully believe there is a role for them, but also believe that their reality is fully engaged with the economics of the University.
But, I want to mostly thank both of you for the work you are doing. I know it is generally thank-less, with little financial reward. However, you are doing the work of true Christians in a way I see few others doing. In these days of social decay and repeated tragedies involving the deaths or abuse of our children, you guys are one of the few lights in a dark sky. You are engaged in a Christian mission to use your talent to help others, at your own expense. You challenge me to think of how I might be a better servant.
I just want to say thank you and God bless you both.
Director, GeoSpatial Services
Saint Mary's University of Minnesota