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LNI An acronym that needs no introduction|
By Native Sun News Staff
All living things grow and change over their life spans, and the Lakota Nation Invitational, with its spirit of the Lakota people, is no different, having grown and changed and evolved from a small entity to one of the largest basketball tournaments in the state of South Dakota.
The tournament brings together Native American high school students from around the state and often North Dakota, Minnesota and Nebraska as well. With the spirit of generosity, good sportsmanship and competitiveness, several non-Native teams are invited every year to round out the exceptional diversity that the tournament has become.
Started on Pine Ridge Reservation as a small eight-team boys basketball tournament in 1977, the LNI was held at the Pine Ridge High School gymnasium for the first two years. Due to the incredible response by fans of participating teams, the tournament was moved to Rapid City at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center in order to accommodate the crowds. At that point in LNI history, the tournament was called the All-Indian Tourney.
In the early years, the girls basketball teams did not have a tournament until 1985 when a separate tournament was held in various locations around the state. This was due to the fact that the girls’ and boys’ teams were held consecutively, with the girls’ season coming in the fall, as school started. It wasn’t until the 2002-2003 season that South Dakota switched to the traditional season used by other states, meaning that the girls’ teams would play during the same season as the boys.
At that point, it was decided that the girls’ teams would play at the civic center during the same All-Indian Tourney as the boys. The only other time the girls played during the boys’ tournament was for exhibition games.
As the years passed, other sports were included, such as wrestling, volleyball, cross country and boxing. In order to further celebrate the Lakota culture, events such as storytelling, hand games and the Lakota Language Bowl were added.
In 2004, the Lakota Nation Invitational held its first “Wiping of the Tears” ceremony. Recently inaugurated Oglala Sioux Tribe President Bryan Brewer, who is the LNI’s founder and director, thought the healing ceremony would be beneficial to all participants who suffered a loss that year. One of those losses in 2004 was a fellow tournament director, Mr. Chuck Cuny of Pine Ridge. Brewer and Cuny took turns directing the LNI since its inception in 1977.
This year’s LNI will also feature the fifth annual Business Plan Competition. This competition requires students to develop business plans that address a specific need, identify a target market, pinpoint the strengths and weaknesses of their competitors and appoint key persons to manage the operation of their business plans. Contestants will be allotted 15 minutes to present their business plans to a panel of judges.
In recent years, there has been talk about moving the tournament due to the increase in costs associated with traveling and staying in Rapid City. Other South Dakota cities have offered to provide LNI organizers with a venue free of cost. And while some city facilities would not be as large as the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center, a move outside of Rapid City would save money for the tournament.
In 2006, the tournament was cut down to three days instead of the usual four. In more recent years, however, the tournament has been moved back up to four days, this year running from Dec. 19 through Dec. 22.
According the Rapid City Area Chamber of Commerce, the Lakota Nation Invitational brings in approximately $5 million for local business and city taxes. Several times since 2006, the LNI organizers have met with Rapid City business leaders to discuss a way to keep the tournament in the city.
The tournament started with only two people running the show, Bryan Brewer and Dave Archambault. Since then, an eight-member board of directors has been established. However, these people alone do not provide the entire manpower required to run a tournament the size of LNI. There are event coordinators for each new event added as well as more than 20 sports officials. Scorers, statisticians, security and gofers all join in to provide the thousands of spectators, players, coaches and staff members of the schools represented every year with an enjoyable time at the Lakota Nation Invitational.