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Lakota Nation Invitational Celebrates 40 years


This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Lakota Nation Invitational.

The LNI, as it’s often called, is held every year at the civic center in Rapid City.

It started out as a basketball tournament, but has grown into an event that showcases sports, alongside student wit, cultural understanding, and creativity.

The Lakota Nation Invitational started in the wake of the Wounded Knee occupation in the 70’s. LNI organizer Brian Brewer says many schools were reluctant to schedule games against Native schools.

Brewer says in order to fill up a team’s basketball schedule; he called on Indian schools in Kansas and Nebraska to come to Pine Ridge to play.

Forty years later, Brewer says he didn’t expect the LNI to grow this much when it first started.

“The first year our small gym only seated 1,200 people. We couldn’t get everyone in, you know, the Fire Marshall’s trying to close us up," Brewer says. "And that third year they’d just finished the Civic Center, it was brand new. And we went in there and got to play the first basketball game ever in the Civic Center and this is our 38th year here now. We really thought that we’d just do a couple of years until we could get schedules calmed down a little bit, but here we are 40 years later. Still going, still growing, it’s been very exciting.”

Brewer says last year 3,000 students participated in the LNI.

Brewer says basketball is a sport that the native community tends to rally around…

“We’ve had great basketball teams in Indian Country in the past," Brewer says. "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 now.”

But the LNI doesn’t just feature basketball. The invitational features anything from Lakota Language bowl, art show, wrestling, archery, and, for the first time this year, chess.  The event starts December 14 and runs through the 17.