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Lakota Nation Invitational

RAPID CITY, S.D. - Most people come here for the basketball. But while in
attendance, meetings and other competitions fill the schedules of students,
parents and tribal leaders.

More than 2,500 students, nearly 5,000 parents and other adults attend the
Lakota Nation Invitational, one of the premier tournaments and gatherings
of athletes, scholars and tribal officials in the nation. This event
garners an estimated $5 million for the local economy, according to the
Rapid City Chamber of Commerce.

Motels are filled, restaurants have waiting lines, the shopping mall is
busy and the convention center that plays host to most of the activities
resonates with the sounds of drums, laughter and energetic students from
more than 35 schools.

This year 32 schools participated in the girl's and boy's basketball
competition, additional schools came in for wrestling, traditional hand
game tournament, knowledge bowl, quiz bowl and language bowls. Others
brought art for the juried show, set up science exhibits for the science
fair and others attended workshops on personal growth, health and
leadership.

Meetings to discuss historical trauma, health, education, Missouri River
control and management, environmental issues, law enforcement and treaty
issues took place during the four days of the LNI.

The LNI started some 28 years ago as a basketball tournament and has grown
into one of the largest gatherings of students in the nation.

Any attempt to outdo last year's dramatic close to a successful tournament
had to wait for another year. Overtime and lead changes were the adrenaline
rush moments of the championship game won by the Pine Ridge Thorpes in a
nail-biting 67 - 62 win over the Cheyenne Eagle Butte Braves.

The tournament also attracted the attention of Sports Illustrated. It
became a special feature of the magazine. Bryan Brewer, organizer of the
tournament said they couldn't get enough copies of the magazine to go
around.

Brewer made good on some of his goals for the tournament. Teams from other
states asked to participate and this year the wrestling championship was
taken by a North Dakota team from Three Affiliated Tribes.

The games throughout the tournament are proof positive that anything can
happen at the LNI. That's why supporters and fans come to watch the action.

There is no doubt in anyone's mind that this tournament is special. Tyrell
Salway, Pine Ridge guard told Sports Illustrated that to play in the LNI is
a dream come true, and to play in a championship game is like playing in
the NBA.

Between meetings and workshops tribal leaders, parents and students found
time to attend the games. This year congressional delegates were drawn to
the event because of the large number of people. Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D.
and Rep. Stephanie Herseth, D-S.D. held meetings on law enforcement and
made themselves available to tribal leaders and the public.

Republicans Gov. Mike Rounds and Sen. Elect John Thune held a meeting with
tribal leaders. Meetings with the elected officials were held at the same
time at different locations in town. Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs
Dave Anderson met with tribal chairmen and discussed issues from a large
agenda.

Anderson also used his cheer-leading technique with students at the LNI,
and students said it was uplifting. Anderson is the first assistant
secretary to meet with young people.

A.C. Green, formerly with the Los Angeles Lakers brought his inspirational
message to the youth. Green holds the NBA record for playing in 1,192
consecutive games. One of Green's goals is to spread the message of racial
reconciliation throughout the world, he said.

The four-day LNI gets larger by the year and this year was no exception.
The Mayor of Rapid City, Jim Shaw, said he is pleased the event is held
here, and hopes it will continue.

The tournament started with eight teams on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Now
16 boy's and 16 girl's basketball teams represent the core of the events,
but other competitions are now drawing more attention. Most schools or
tribal organizations have traditional hand game teams, scholars work hard
to compete in the knowledge and language bowls and artwork continues to
increase.