Elevating Native Voices: Dale Pine Jr.'s Inspiring Journey of Empowerment
The name Dale Pine Jr. resonates with community activism, mentorship, education, and an unyielding dedication to the Native community of the Oglala Lakota Nation. An athlete, sports historian, and organizer of the Lakota All-Star Game, Dale's impact stretches across South Dakota and Turtle Island, awakening people to new possibilities.
In a landscape where narratives from Indian reservations are often told from an outsider's perspective, Dale emerges as a beacon, shining a light on the stories of his community. Rarely do we hear these tales from the voices that lived them. Yet, inspired by an urge to delve into Native sports history in South Dakota, Dale embarked on a journey of exploration.
"Growing up, I heard countless stories but couldn't access the articles. During my college days at Chadron State, I would frequent the Public Library in Rapid City. There, I discovered microfilms with old newspaper articles. I'd spend hours digging through, finding stories that captivated me," Dale recounts. His pride in sharing these forgotten stories on social media is palpable.
Having met many individuals at United Tribes Technical College and Chadron State, Dale finds immense satisfaction in resurrecting pieces of history. "Archiving our history, showcasing the positives we possess, especially to our youth, is vital. They should know what their predecessors accomplished—not just athletically, but in life," he emphasizes.
Dale, like many Native youth, understands the hurdles that life, both on and off Indian reservations, presents. The loss of his sister Cassandra in 1998 brought his battles with anxiety and depression to the forefront. However, sports proved to be a beacon of hope.
"My first year at Red Cloud Indian School introduced me to numerous friends through sports. Our weekly eligibility checks were a wake-up call—either excel academically or risk ineligibility. I was determined to stand by my teammates, pushing myself to ensure I remained eligible," Dale reflects.
A central aspect of Dale's vision is spotlighting the exceptional talents of Native athletes. "I want the world to recognize that Native athletes give their all with the available resources. They often work twice as hard emotionally and physically to reach their goals. The Lakota All-Star Game offers a stage to honor and celebrate these athletes, their communities, and their families."
The inception of the Lakota All-Star Game in 2019, inspired by Pine Ridge Senior Cory Brown's Spirit of Su award and the Todd County girls' basketball team's triumphant season, showcased Dale's commitment to realizing his vision.
"I was working at Loneman School in Oglala, SD, at the time. I proposed hosting the All-Star game in our gym. Reaching out to players, I was uncertain about the response. To my joy, the gym reached its capacity. I wanted to convey to our Native athletes that their potential knows no bounds," Dale shares.
The Lakota All-Star Game unfolded on April 29, 2023, at the new Summit Arena in downtown Rapid City, including college women's and men's basketball matchups.
Dale's love for coaching stems from witnessing young individuals set and attain personal and collective goals. "It's not always about winning; sometimes, the objective is to achieve personal bests. As a coach, I encourage my athletes to tap into their potential."
Educating is another role Dale holds dear. "Being an educator allows me to connect with my students by sharing that I walked in their shoes. Having graduated from the reservation, I set diverse goals. I encourage them to overcome doubts about achieving their dreams. Education extends beyond academics, imparting life skills about being a good relative and treating others with kindness."
The wellspring of Dale's perseverance lies in knowing someone believed in him. He reflects, "Having mentors who cared enough to converse with me kept me going. I want to offer that same support to my students. Our ancestors' spirit lives within us, a force that can't be extinguished."
Dale's journey echoes with terms like grit, resilience, and toughness—qualities emblematic of the Native communities in South Dakota. The title of his life's anthem could be "Forgotten and Slept On," or perhaps echoing Tupac's spirit, "Me Against the World." Regardless, the choice remains: to challenge circumstances and rise above.
Dale Pine Jr.'s immersion in sports has become a repository of life lessons, serving him both on and off the court. His fervor for nurturing young Native minds is unwavering. Dale is determined to forge a legacy of empowerment, opportunity, and mentorship—leaving an indelible mark on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and beyond.