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Lakota Country Times: Lakota Nation Invitational weighs move





The following story was written and reported by Brandon Ecoffey, Lakota Country Times editor, and will appear in full in tomorrow's print edition of the Lakota Country Times. For more news, subscribe to the Lakota Country Times today. All content © Lakota Country Times.


Bryan Brewer, Lakota Nation Invitational director and former Oglala Sioux Tribe president. Photo from Lakota Country Times

LNI move possible: Organizers to entertain offers from other sites
By Brandon Ecoffey
Lakota Country Times editor

PINE RIDGE—The Lakota Nation Invitational has been a mainstay in Rapid City for decades, however, in light of several recent incidents in the city organizers will now begin entertaining offers from other potential host sites.

Longtime tournament director and former Oglala Sioux Tribal President, Bryan Brewer Sr., confirmed in a phone call to Lakota Country Times that the Lakota Nation Invitational Board of Directors will travel to Sioux Falls next week to meet with city officials who would like to see the event and the $6 million annual economic stimulus package Rapid City has enjoyed relocated east of the Missouri River.

“I personally would like to see the tournament stay in Rapid City. I think we shouldn’t run from problems especially those having to do with race. The tournament is a great educational tool that helps to dispel many misconceptions about our people,” said Brewer. “I don’t want to totally abandon our relatives living in Rapid City area but with the recent incidents in the city we are going to start looking at other options.”

According to Brewer over 3,000 students participated in this past year’s 39th annual LNI. The four day cultural extravaganza that takes place during the peak of the holiday season features tournaments in both boys and girls high school basketball, wrestling, volleyball, a knowledge bowl, a traditional hand game contest, a Lakota language bowl, and a spoken word contest. The size of the event and the large crowds that flock to Rapid City bring a $6 million dollars boost to the local economy during the height of the holiday shopping season. The much needed boost for local businesses is a powerful bargaining chip that organizers of the event have at their disposal when negotiating with potential host locations.

Despite the visibility of the event the tournament has largely remained apolitical as both participants and tournament officials have worked to keep the focus of the event positive. That changed over the course of the past few weeks as the Oglala Sioux Tribe has passed multiple resolutions designed to discourage tribal programs and citizens from patronizing businesses in Rapid City. The tribe also passed a resolution asking the tournament’s board of directors to move LNI to an alternate location.

The actions by OST have come in response to the perceived failure of Rapid City’s judicial system to charge a man accused of spilling beer on 57 children from the American Horse School while at a Rapid City Rush semi-pro hockey game. The youth also had racially charged statements directed towards them according to statements made by advocates for the 57 children. Many tribal members have expressed concern over the decision to not charge, Trace O’Connell, the man accused, with assault. Instead the city opted to charge him with a simple disorderly conduct. The disorderly conduct charge would likely keep O’Connell from doing anytime behind bars.

Rapid City has had its share of problems with race in the past however the Lakota Nation Invitational has never been employed by the tribe as a political tool. Although the tribe has no official authority over the privately run event it has directed that tribal funds not be spent in the city. Despite pleas from the tribe Brewer stated that all four of the high schools on the reservation plan to ignore the tribe’s call and plan to send students to LNI if the event is still in Rapid City this December.

Representatives from LNI stated that city officials from Hot Springs, Spearfish, Sioux Falls, and Bismark, ND have all expressed interest in taking action to bring the event to their city. Brewer said that the board of directors would begin entertaining these offers next week when they travel to Sioux Falls.

(Contact Brandon Ecoffey at editor@lakotacountrytimes.com)