Water, Life and Basketball: The Lakota Nation Invitational (Photo Gallery)

The 40th annual Lakota Nation Invitational: A beautiful celebration of Native sports and culture for Native youth.
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The 40th annual Lakota Nation Invitational is more than just a competitive basketball tournament. It’s a massive athletics-based gathering with a focus on Native youth that has drawn thousands of people for the past half century right near the sacred Black Hills in Rapid City, SD. Basketball is the main draw, with dozens of high school boys and girls teams competing for the coveted title each year. But basketball is by no means the only competition at LNI. Over the years, the offerings have diversified to include something for everyone: volleyball, cross-country, hand games, cheerleading, business plans, wrestling, powwow, Lakota language bowl, art shows, knowledge bowl, poetry slam, and more. Like any other gathering, tangential events fill LNI week with even more activity, attracting vendors, professional workshops, higher education recruiting, and so much more.

This year, Lakota Nation Invitational started out with a special and symbolic outreach by the Rapid City Police Department. The police escorted team buses from reservations all over to the Civic Center, where the tournament would take place. At the Civic Center, players walked down a red carpet and joined Rapid City officials and representatives from the Rapid City Visitor and Convention Center for a welcome dinner.This show of outreach and appreciation was counter to the reputation that Rapid City has developed over the years as being unwelcoming to Native people or unappreciative of the economic boost that Native-based events like LNI bring to the city in tourism dollars.

As for the main event–the basketball tournament–the undefeated Winnebago Indians took the championship title for the second year in a row, beating Red Cloud in the finals by a whopping 97-51 Saturday night.

ICMN photographer Thosh Collins captured some of the preliminary and semifinal basketball games.Enjoy these photos of tough competition and good sportsmanship from the 40th annual Lakota Nation Invitational.