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Despite winter storm, LNI basketball plans normal start

Nate Wek
South Dakota Public Broadcasting

The 45th annual Lakota Nation Invitational basketball tournament will take place at The Monument in Rapid City this week. This yearly spectacle started as just a basketball tournament, but today, and nearly five decades later, it’s ballooned into an event that hosts 14 activities in total.

One hitch in this year’s plan is a winter snowstorm that will cover most of the state. But as of Monday afternoon, the basketball tournament, which is scheduled to start Wednesday morning and run through Saturday evening, is on schedule to start on time.

“Usually they would be coming in [Tuesday], but because of the weather, [the teams are] all on the way [Monday],” explained LNI director and founder Bryan Brewer. “Our tournament will start as scheduled on Wednesday. All of our workers and officials, they’re all on their way to Rapid City early also, so things are going to go as originally planned.”

As of Tuesday morning, the only two schools out of 24 who had not yet made it to Rapid City were Wall and Custer.

While basketball is hoping to proceed on schedule, some of the other activities at the event might see a delay.

“We did move some, the Powwow, that’s usually on Wednesday, that’ll be on Friday,” Brewer said. "We have a number of other events that we’re moving a day later on Thursday too.”

While the basketball tournament is certainly a main draw, the event that draws the most participants is not basketball.

“We have our traditional Hand Games tournament, and that is now our biggest event. We have 48 basketball teams, but we have over 50 hand game teams coming in, so that is our biggest,” Brewer explained. “We’re expecting a little over 3,000 students to come in to participate in all of our activities.”

LNI started as a small tournament in 1976 as an early season basketball invitational in Pine Ridge. After a few years, it moved to Rapid City where, minus the one year it was canceled because of the pandemic, it’s been every year since.

“It’s unbelievable when we look at it, we started with a small eight team Indian tournament in Pine Ridge, and we were just hoping that we would be able to fill up our schedule,” stated Brewer. “No one had any idea that 45 years later we’d still be going and how much it’s grown. I still can’t believe how much it’s grown, and the number of students involved in our activities.”

Some of the other activities besides basketball are Hand Games, Poetry Slam, a Powwow, the Lakota Language Bowl, an art show, a knowledge bowl, chess, and archery – just to name some. And despite the weatherly forecast, snow in mid-December isn’t something that is unique to the Rapid City area this time of year.

“A few years ago, we had real bad weather. On the morning the tournament started, we still had three teams on the interstate trying to get here, but they all made it,” Brewer chuckled. “They pulled in, jumped off the bus, and played basketball. We always have to be prepared, but we’ll make it work.”

The 2022 Lakota Nation Invitational will take place on Tuesday December 13th through Saturday December 17th. For more information about all the events and schedule, click here.

Nate Wek is currently the sports content producer and sports and rec beat reporter for South Dakota Public Broadcasting. He is a graduate of South Dakota State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Journalism Broadcasting and a minor in Leadership. From 2010-2013 Nate was the Director of Gameday Media for the Sioux Falls Storm (Indoor Football League) football team. He also spent 2012 and 2013 as the News and Sports Director of KSDJ Radio in Brookings, SD. Nate, his wife Sarah, and two kids Braxan and Jordy, live in Canton, SD.