40th Anniversary of the Lakota Nation Invitational

The 40th Anniversary of the Lakota Nation Invitational will run December 14-17th, 2016. LNI will again be held at the Rapid City Civic Center. What began in 1976 as an inter-tribal basketball tournament has grown into a significant cultural experience that showcases the athleticism, intelligence, creativity and history of the Lakota people.This year, in particular, provides an opportunity to create meaningful outreach for the Lakota Nation and the people of Western South Dakota. The issues of Native rights and of diversity and acceptance have been in the forefront of the news in 2016. From the protests by Water Protectors at Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, to the concerns about voter representation and the values of respecting the lives of people of color, this has been a season of awareness.

It is also an opportunity for the Black Hills community to come together and celebrate sportsmanship, education and our shared values. Three years ago, the prospects of continuing LNI in Rapid City were dimmed by an incident at the Civic Center during a Rush hockey game. Tribal elders and Rapid City community leaders worked hard toward healing the divide and the mistrust that existed on both sides. LNI creates an opportunity for dialogue, for coming together, for healing and understanding. It is also a significant revenue source in Rapid City and the city’s leaders worked hard to earn back the trust of the Lakota Nation and to welcome again its strongest athletes, students, artists and those who come out to cheer on the participants.

Key organizations in our community have also contributed to continue the spirit of the Lakota Nation Invitational. The Rapid City Convention and Visitor’s Bureau donated $5,000 to the LNI Board, and downtown merchant Prairie Edge made a $12,500 donation! Additionally, several area hotels donated one hundred rooms to those traveling into the area for the games.

The Lakota Nation Invitational was created in the aftermath of the Wounded Knee occupation in the 1970’s. Many of the region’s public and private schools were hesitant to host basketball games with Lakota schools. So, LNI organizer Brian Brewer rang up Native schools in Kansas and Nebraska.

Their small auditorium could only hold 1200 people that first year. Three years later they moved to the newly constructed Rapid City Civic Center for the games. By 2015 there were three thousand students participating in the games.

Brewer says basketball has been particularly popular within the Lakota community. “We’ve had great basketball teams in Indian Country in the past. For the young men, it’s a chance for them to show their bravery — to be a warrior because sometimes it’s very difficult to do those things now. They’re always held in high esteem — the good basketball players. Boys and girls, now. Girl’s basketball has come so far…”

This year, along with the games, you’ll also be able to enjoy a wide variety of events including:

• Inaugural year for the Lakota Nation Invitational Chess Tournament

• Bowling

• Art Show

• Wrestling

• Archery

• Business Plan Competition

• Hand Game Tournament

• Polynesian Luau

• Cheerleading Competition

• Storytelling

• Poetry Slam

For information about supporting the 2016 Lakota Nation Invitational, please visit http://www.lakotanationinvitational.com

About the Author
Lisa Ann Gallagher is an author, freelance writer and social media strategist based in the Black Hills. She is currently at work on her fourth work, due to be published in early 2017.