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Invitational is more than sports.

By David Melmer -- Today staff

RAPID CITY, S.D. - Quick: What does the Tyndall effect relate to? What is the capital of Thailand? What is a transversal?

Questions asked of the student teams participating in the knowledge bowl during the Lakota Nation Invitational are not easy, and they cover topics from physics and grammar to English literature and world geography.

Here are some more: Who wrote ''Ivanhoe''? Who wrote ''Lord Jim''? Name the merchant in the ''Merchant of Venice.''

Students were nearly cloistered in a quiet room, heads down in pensive thought with tests in front of them for more than two hours in the finals of the knowledge bowl. Schools choose team members for the bowls, most of whom do not participate in the athletic events of the LNI.

The LNI promotes the academic portion of the four-day event to prove that there is more to school than sports and to provide American Indian students with the fundamentals of learning.

Students go through a grueling learning process before the tournament, and for three days they are bombarded with questions. Under the pressure of time, they respond verbally in the early stages of the testing.

The finals are completed on paper.

To keep the Lakota culture moving forward, language has taken center stage, not only in school curricula, but in special classes and out of school as well.

The LNI promotes the language with the language bowl. Students gathered in the halls outside the room where the bowl was held, studying vocabulary sheets and practicing their pronunciation of words. Proper pronunciation is a requirement during the competition.

Categories ranging from body parts to foods, medicines and more faced the students. The Lakota words for ''heart,'' ''toenail,'' ''left side,'' ''heals'' and ''ribs'' were part of the contest. ''Flour,'' ''chokecherries,'' ''watermelon,'' ''pepper,'' ''hot dog'' and ''frybread'' were some of the words needing translation by the students.

Each team had a time limit in which to respond to the moderator's question. If a team member knew the answer, he or she hit a button and had 10 seconds to answer. Team members usually consulted with each other before striking the buzzer. For every correct answer that is pronounced perfectly, the team received one point.

By the way - the capital of Thailand is Bangkok, the Tyndall effect is the result of light passing through smoke or dust, ''Ivanhoe'' was written by Sir Walter Scott, ''Lord Jim'' was written by Joseph Conrad and the merchant's name was Antonio (not Shylock: he was the moneylender).

Students take pride in their accomplishments in the knowledge and language bowls. St. Joseph's School in Chamberlain, S.D., participated for the first time in the knowledge bowl and in the LNI. The school's knowledge bowl team finished fourth.

Arth exhibit

The juried art show at the LNI grows each year with art categories ranging from photos to oils, and pottery to traditional objects. More than 350 pieces of art are included in 16 categories. Some artwork was generated by computers; other works show the detailed and sometimes tedious attention needed for intricate beadwork.

For artists from schools throughout the region, the art show is an opportunity to exhibit their work in a large public forum. Their art is largely displayed in the schools.

The gallery was open during the entire LNI. Artists reached deep into their cultural roots and brought those images and character to paintings that feature motorcycles, cars and other modern ideas.

Blending culture with the contemporary is a familiar theme for young artists, who demonstrate the skill and creativity of their ancestors and of contemporary artists.