Park complex honors Lakota code talkers

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RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) - A sports complex planned for Mission will honor the Lakota code talkers of World War II, university and Rosebud Sioux tribal officials say.

Plans for Code Talkers Memorial Park call for a baseball field, playgrounds and picnic areas.

Also, the complex could offer summer recreation and wellness programs through an agreement between the tribe and South Dakota State University, according to Russell Stubbles, an SDSU professor in the Department of Horticulture, Forestry, Landscape and Parks.

The project is an example of ''upstream thinking'' in a society that too often reacts to problems with jail or punishment, Stubbles said.

The idea began in 2006 when tribal officials asked SDSU to help provide recreation and parks development and programs for the reservation.

''The secret is not to build the prisons, but to build and promote social wellness programs,'' Stubbles said. ''Our total package with the Reservation Recreation Project recognizes this. We aim to bring recreation programs to the youth out in the little communities all summer long. That is where the hope will have to be planted.''

The park is named for a little-known piece of American Indian history. Code talkers used American Indian languages to baffle the Japanese and help win the war in the Pacific.

The park is to contain a grove made up of trees taken from the various reservation communities of the 11 men who served the U.S. Army as Lakota code talkers during WWII.

The project could cost $1 million and take three years to complete. Fundraising will be conducted through the SDSU Foundation.

The tribe agreed to create a parks and recreation division to work with SDSU.

''There are many good people on the Rosebud who are trying, but they are overwhelmed by it all,'' Stubbles said. ''We are offering hope.''

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