Lakota Nation Invitational

Since 1976, the Lakota Nation Invitational has been the top high school basketball invitational in South Dakota. What started as purely a basketball event, the LNI now consists of everything from cultural and academic events to a multiple arts and crafts competitions as well. The action on the court, though, still drives fans, players, and schools to Rapid City each December for this annual event.

Lakota leaders gather this week in Rapid City for the Oceti Sakowin Treaty Conference. It's the second year the Rosebud Treaty Council has hosted this event, which coincides with the Lakota Nation Invitational, now in its 43rd year.

Topics and presenters at this year's conference include the Doctrine of Discovery with author Steven Newcomb; International Repatriation with Andrea Carmen of the International Indian Treaty Council; Inherent Rights with Oregon attorney Patrick Kincaid; and a review of legal cases involving tribes, presented by Colorado attorney Andy Reid.

SD Inmates Make Jewelry And Raise Money For MMIW

Dec 12, 2019
Richie Richards / Native Sun News

A group of South Dakota inmates is raising money to help causes that support missing and murdered Indigenous women and Native health care programs. The endeavor lets inmates participate while they’re incarcerated. 


Cody Hopkins has been an inmate at the South Dakota State Penitentiary since 2015. Hopkins says he wants to help programs he believes in, but his options are limited. 


“There’s so many things in here that we are constantly looking at from the inside out,” Hopkins said.


Russian Visitors Learn From LNI

Dec 17, 2018

A group of people from Russia attended this year’s Lakota Nation Invitational in Rapid City. They learned how the event hosts tournaments, showcases indigenous culture and even new games to bring back home.

Some of the group of Russian people work in indigenous communities back home. They shared parts of their culture and met with local Native Americans to learn about tribes in South Dakota.

Local Businesses Join Hand Games At LNI

Dec 17, 2018

Hand Games are traditional games historically played by many Native American tribes across the country. There’s a competition at the LNI for hand games passed down through South Dakota tribes-And for the second year in a row, local business are invited to play along.

Whitney Rencountre is with the Ateyapi youth mentoring program in Rapid City. He says Hand Games teach aren’t just for entertainment.

LNI Bear Jamboree Entertains Kids With STEAM

Dec 17, 2018

The Lakota Nation Invitational, or LNI, offers entertainment for kids of all ages. One event, the Bear Jamboree, teaches young children about STEAM, or science, technology, engineering, art and math.

Volunteers set up tables behind a basketball game for the 16th annual Bear Jamboree. The event is popular with kids who come to play games, get candy and see Santa Clause make his stop at the LNI. This year, some of the activities don’t just entertain-they get educational.

LNI Cheerleaders Team With SDSMT Squad

Dec 13, 2018
Chynna Lockett

Eighteen cheerleading squads are teaming together to perform an opening dance during the Lakota Nation Invitational. The students had three hours to learn a group routine this year. The South Dakota School of Mines and Technology cheer team helped prepped the high schoolers and are joining in their performance.

One Hundred and thirty cheerleaders are practicing for the pre-cheer competition dance.

Seven School of Mines cheerleaders volunteered to choregraph the performance. They count steps and help hold high schoolers in in the air.

LNI Incorporates Lakota Language Competition

Dec 12, 2018

More than 150 kids, coaches and parents met at the Rushmore Civic Center Wednesday morning for the Lakota Language Bowl. The competition is part of he annual Lakota Nation Invitational.  It includes students from kindergarten through high school speaking Lakota and Dakota.

The first contest of the day features videos of students from different schools speaking Lakota and Dakota. There are 41 teams this year from all over the state, and some from North Dakota. 

Kellee Brewer is the Lakota Nation Invitational Language Bowl Coordinator.

LNI Kicks Off With Red Carpet Welcome

Dec 12, 2018

The 42nd annual Lakota Nation Invitational starts in Rapid City Wednesday. Student and coaches were greeted by business leaders and family members in Rapid City during a red carpet welcome.

Buses of Lakota Nation Invitational, or LNI participants were escorted to the Civic Center by Rapid City the Police, Sheriff’s and Fire departments. They walked down a long red carpet and gave high fives to fans.

Julie Schmitz Jensen is the President & CEO of Visit Rapid City. She helps organize the red carpet welcome.

Students Pitch Business Plans

Dec 14, 2017
Chynna Lockett

Potential entrepreneurs are competing for scholarships this week. High schoolers are presenting business models in a competition at the Lakota Nation Invitational.

Students stand in front of a panel of judges gesturing at PowerPoints and trifold posters. They answer questions about the revenue and time line of their business plans.

Angela Koenen is the Lead Coordinator for the LNI Business Competition. She’s also a coordinator at Lakota Funds, a company that deals with small business loans.

Spitting Words At LNI’s Fourth Annual Poetry Slam

Dec 15, 2016
Lee Strubinger / SDPB

The Lakota Nation Invitational is not just for athletes, but aesthetes as well.  An aesthete, if you are wondering, is someone who loves the arts, poetry, culture and  nature.

This year marks the fourth annual poetry slam at LNI.

Lakota student poet Wiyaka reads during the third round of the poetry slam at the 40th annual Lakota Nation Invitational.

Nine high school poets from across South Dakota read their work during two score keeping rounds. Only four poets advanced to the third round. But, as was so often noted, poetry isn’t about scoring or numbers.

Kenzie Wagner/SDPB

The 40th annual Lakota Nation Invitational is now underway in Rapid City. The week-long event brings tribes from all over the area to honor Lakota values and traditions. There are basketball tournaments, art displays, and even a Lakota Language Bowl.

Lakota youth ranging from kindergarten to high school use the language bowl to show off their Lakota speaking skills.

Lakota Nation Invitational Celebrates 40 years

Dec 5, 2016

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.

The Lakota Nation Invitational is in its 39th year. What started as a way to build hope and community in the wake of racial tension and violence has blossomed into a multi-event, multi-culture tournament that draws thousands.

Founder Bryan Brewer sits down with Dakota Midday host Lori Walsh to discuss basketball, the evolution of LNI, and the intricate rules of Lakota-style Hand Games. 

LNI Considers Move Out Of Rapid City

Mar 11, 2015

The director of the Lakota Nation Invitational says the board is considering moving the event out of Rapid City to Sioux Falls or even Bismarck.

The “L.N.I.” as it’s often called started as a basketball tournament in Rapid City in the 1970’s.  Today it’s grown into a major event with an economic impact measured in the millions.   

But as SDPB’s Charles Michael Ray reports tense race relations in Rapid City after an incident at the local Civic Center prompted calls for a move.

You can hear the full story by clicking play below.