Lakota Country Times: Group seeks to boost Pine Ridge tourism

The following article was written and reported by Tom Crash, Lakota Country Times Correspondent. For more news, subscribe to the Lakota Country Times today. All content © Lakota Country Times.

Visitors are welcomed to the offices of the Pine Ridge Area Chamber of Commerce in Kyle, South Dakota. Photo from Facebook

Pine Ridge Area Chamber of Commerce enters summer tourist season prepared
Group hopes to attract people to reservation
By Tom Crash
LCT Correspondent

THREE MILE CREEK – “We are working to build an economy here on Pine Ridge Reservation," said Ivan Sorbel, executive director of the Pine Ridge Area Chamber of Commerce.

"We support businesses on Pine Ridge, we help new businesses, we work at attracting people to come here, to learn about our beautiful culture, our art, our music and dance and our activities,” Sorbel added. “We work on developing a workforce while helping to create an environment supportive of job development.”

In preparation for the summer, PRACC printed up four new rack cards for distribution, updated and printed 30,000 Discover Lakota Country brochures with 9,000 going to the interstate visitor centers and participated in the SD Coop Marketing Campaign. This year the chamber attended the Rocky Mountain International Roundup in Sioux Falls in April, a trade show with international tour operators focusing on Colorado, Wyoming, Montana and North and South Dakota. They also were invited by SD Tourism to share their booth at IPW in Orlando, a great generator of travel leads, again with international tour operators.

The chamber is sponsoring their annual Poker Run on August 6th, running from Rapid City to Pine Ridge Reservation, its $40 a hand with a $500 first place prize and a meal and entertainment at the end of the run. This year, the chamber is setting up a booth at Black Hills Harley Davidson in Sturgis for 14 days during the 75th Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, they’re expecting over 500,000 visitors, added Sorbel.

“Over 1.2 million visitors come through Badlands National Park each year, over four million visit Mt. Rushmore and over a million stop in at Crazy Horse Mountain," Sorbel noted. "Most bypass Pine Ridge Reservation."

'We want to boost the economy here, we want to attract visitors to the reservation, promote our businesses through tourism, provide opportunities to purchase arts and crafts,” the executive director said.

The Pine Ridge Area Chamber of Commerce showcases the works of local artists at its visitors center. Photo from PRACC

The chamber recently purchased two 15-passenger vans for workforce development at the Cedar Pass Lodge in Cedar Pass. Sorbel said a $75,000 grant from the Administration for Native Americans, a federal agency, helped train young tribal members for jobs. Some 26 people were put to work for six weeks.

'We need programs that start in high school or junior high [and] build a generation of workers to help us move forward," he said.

“We need a day labor program on Pine Ridge. I think it could work here,” added Sorbel. “I worked day labor when I was in Vermillion, I ended up in a roofing crew, worked in the dorm. They’re going to try it in Pine Ridge as they re-build the pow wow arbor. Let’s see how it works.”

"We need to offer more than arts and crafts," he added. "We need some performing arts, music shows, slam poetry, regular shows."

"I think we need to re-look at a tribal national park that could develop jobs, boost the economy, bring back the possibility of a heritage/visitor museum center that could tell our story through our eyes – there is so much potential on the table," Sorbel concluded

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