indianz.com your internet resource indianz.com on facebook indianz.com on twitter indianz.com on Google+ indianz.com on soundcloud
phone: 202 630 8439
Kill The Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement
Advertise on Indianz.Com
Home > News > Headlines
Print   Subscribe
Tim Giago: The Olympics of Indian basketball in South Dakota

Filed Under: Opinion
More on: basketball, south dakota, tim giago
     

Notes from Indian Country
By Tim Giago (Nanwica Kciji)
© Unity South Dakota

It started out in 1977 as a tournament to bring American Indian teams together and prepare them for the long season ahead. It has gone where no one alive today ever thought it would go.

When the Lakota people hear the acronym “LNI” they know exactly what it means. It means Lakota Nation Invitational, and from that small beginning with eight teams in 1977 on Pine Ridge Reservation, it has grown to the point that the 2012 LNI – the 36th annual gathering – has 32 teams, 16 boys’ and 16 girls’ teams competing.

Back in 1976, the American Indian Movement’s occupation of Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge Reservation of South Dakota brought an abundance of fear and concern to the athletic directors of the non-Indian schools in western South Dakota. They did not want their teams to travel to the reservation to play the Indian teams because rumors suggested that they would meet with violence. The rumor wasn’t true then, and it isn’t true today.

Bryan Brewer, who was elected as President of the Oglala Sioux Tribe in November, and Chuck Cuny, two Lakota educators, decided to move the All-Indian Tourney, as the LNI was known in its early years, to Rapid City and they hoped to invite white teams to play in the tourney in hopes of promoting better racial relations and understanding.

An extremely popular and successful white coach of Custer High School named Larry Luitjens was asked to bring his team to the newly named Lakota Nation Invitational Tournament. The irony of a team from “Custer” High School did not escape the attention of the local citizenry. After all, to the Lakota people, George Armstrong Custer was the epitome of all that is bad among the white people. To have a team named after this villain play in a tournament comprised mainly of Lakota Sioux Indians was the crowning achievement of Brewer and Cuny.

But it took a courageous and fair-minded coach like Luitjens to put the icing on the cake. He not only brought his team to play, he became the first non-Indian coach to put his reputation on the line to actively promote the tournament.

And he is still there every year cheering on his Custer Wildcats to another tournament victory. Luitjens has been joined by the all-white teams from St. Thomas More and Hill City, girls and boys teams.

Friday night is the prime-time night of the tournament. It is the night of the “Grand Entry,” when warriors in full regalia, led by the tournament organizer Bryan Brewer, enter the arena to the beat of the drums.

The lights in the arena are lowered and as the beat of the drums grow louder, the cheerleaders and players from all of the teams entered in the tournament march into the arena one after the other. Each team has a banner with the school’s name leading the way. As the announcer shouts out the name of each team, their respective fans shower them with the whistles and cheers of encouragement.

I was reminded of the wonderful sight of the teams of the different Nations entering the sports stadiums of the Olympics that are held around the world every four years. There is nothing as spectacular as watching the teams from the many nations march into the stadium with banners waving as they salute the crowd with confidence and pride. That is the way it is at the LNI.

The LNI is more than just a basketball tournament: It has turned into the social event of the year for the Lakota people. The tourney now includes traditional hand games, language contests, volleyball and wrestling. Many educational organizations plan their winter meetings in and around the tournament.

The LNI brings in as much as $5 million to the economy of Rapid City at a time when tourism is at its lowest. The thousands of spectators that travel to Rapid City from all nine Indian reservations in the state and from reservations in the bordering states of Wyoming, Nebraska and Montana stay in the local motels, eat in the local restaurants, and go to the local movie theaters. It probably brought in more money this year because so many Lakota had just received their checks as part of the Cobell Settlement.

And since the tournament is held in mid-December, you will see the shopping malls overflowing with the people of the Great Sioux Nation as they do their Christmas shopping with extra cash in their pockets.

The white citizens of Rapid City have come to accept the tournament as a part of their winter culture also. Signs in store windows and billboards read “Welcome to the LNI.” What a difference 36 years can make.

From its humble beginning in 1977, the LNI is now doing more to break down racial barriers than any such event in this state’s history. In 2003, the LNI became the only major American Indian sporting event to be featured in Sports Illustrated Magazine.

Chuck Cuny passed away a few years back, and Bryan Brewer has taken up the mantle. In 2005, the tournament honored Vine Deloria, the great Lakota professor and author who died in November of that year, and Calvin Jumping Bull, another great educator from the Lakota Nation who took the journey to the spirit world in July of that same year. And each year the organizers of the tourney make every effort to honor some of the great Lakota, Dakota and Nakota achievers.

In 1990 LNI honored Gov. George Mickelson and I for our efforts at introducing the Year of Reconciliation to promote racial harmony between Indians and whites. Mickelson died in a plane crash in April of 1993.

So when you hear the acronym “LNI,” think Lakota, think unity, think reconciliation, think fun and think games. It is a wonderful thing to behold.

Tim Giago, an Oglala Lakota, was born, raised and educated on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. He was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard in the class of 1991. He was inducted into the South Dakota Newspaper Hall of Fame in 2007. He can be reached at Unitysodak1@knology.net.

More from Tim Giago:
Tim Giago: 'There are no words to describe it' - Wounded Knee (12/17)
Tim Giago: Gays and lesbians respected in traditional society (12/10)
Tim Giago: Indian Country remains out of sight and out of mind (12/3)
Tim Giago: Playing both sides against the middle in US politics (11/26)
Tim Giago: Still sweating after 34 years of my weekly columns (11/19)
Tim Giago: Why an Indian voted for a South Dakota Republican (11/12)
Tim Giago: Heart disease and diabetes invade Indian Country (11/5)
Tim Giago: Stuck like a fly in the honey of the Democratic Party (10/29)
Tim Giago: Kristi Noem is still the right choice for South Dakota (10/22)
Tim Giago: Alcoholism another vicious cycle in Indian Country (10/15)
Tim Giago: Race relations 22 years after Year of Reconciliation (10/8)
Tim Giago: Sister Ivo and the Mission boarding school epidemics (10/1)


Copyright © Indianz.Com
More headlines...
Stay Connected:
On Facebook

On Twitter

On Google+

On SoundCloud
Local Links:
Federal Register | Indian Gaming | Jobs & Notices | In The Hoop | Message Board
Latest News:
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe confirms lack of easement for pipeline (8/30)
Supplies needed for #NoDAPL Defenders of Sacred Water School (8/30)
Lakota Country Times: Students witness history at pipeline camp (8/30)
Vi Waln: Media distorts peaceful nature of sacred #NoDAPL camp (8/30)
Police officer for Navajo Nation killed in the line of duty in Arizona (8/30)
Indian Health Service hosts conference with Direct Service Tribes (8/30)
Tim Giago: Indian Country still suffering from boarding school era (8/30)
Mark Trahant: Congressional hopefuls debate on Fort Peck Nation (8/30)
Bill John Baker: Cherokee Nation invests in needs of communities (8/30)
Native Sun News: Ruling awaited in Indian Child Welfare Act case (8/30)
Clara Caufield: An appreciation for a modern-day 'Teeth Woman' (8/30)
Native Sun News Editorial: Lands were taken from our ancestors (8/30)
Mike Myers: Historic ties between the Haudenosaunee and Sioux (8/30)
Mark Anthony Rolo: Tribes remain at mercy of bad federal policies (8/30)
Congressional hopeful seeks debate on South Dakota reservation (8/30)
Federal judge stays off Ute Tribe sovereignty suit despite protest (8/30)
North Fork Rancheria wins final decision in gaming compact case (8/30)
Lytton Band in negotiations for new agreement with labor union (8/30)
Chumash Tribe enters agreement for law enforcement at casino (8/30)
Former Nottawaseppi Huron Band employee sentenced for theft (8/30)
Defenders of the Water School opens at pipeline resistance camp (8/29)
Dave Archambault: Stopping the desecration of our Mother Earth (8/29)
Lakota Country Times: Resisters dispute emergency declaration (8/29)
Mark Trahant: State erects roadblock at peaceful #NoDAPL camp (8/29)
Latoya Lonelodge: Witnessing history at Camp of Sacred Stones (8/29)
Jon Eagle: Land remains sacred to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe (8/29)
Albert Bender: Tribes join together at Camp of the Sacred Stones (8/29)
Steven Newcomb: Law of Christendom at play in #NoDAPL battle (8/29)
Arvol Looking Horse: Saving our Earth from energy development (8/29)
Senate Committee on Indian Affairs schedules hearing on 4 bills (8/29)
Quapaw Tribe hosts groundbreaking for meat processing facility (8/29)
Native Sun News: Youth learn about traditions with Native games (8/29)
Delphine Red Shirt: Taking control of teaching our own languages (8/29)
Denver American Horse: Veterans column in the Lakota language (8/29)
more headlines...

Home | Arts & Entertainment | Business | Canada | Cobell Lawsuit | Education | Environment | Federal Recognition | Federal Register | Forum | Health | Humor | Indian Gaming | Indian Trust | Jack Abramoff Scandal | Jobs & Notices | Law | National | News | Opinion | Politics | Sports | Technology | World

Indianz.Com Terms of Service | Indianz.Com Privacy Policy
About Indianz.Com | Advertise on Indianz.Com

Indianz.Com is a product of Noble Savage Media, LLC and Ho-Chunk, Inc.