Leaders of the Lakota Nation Invitational (LNI) are discussing a possible move out of Rapid City, South Dakota. Talk stems from the racism displayed against Native children at a recent hockey game within the city’s Rushmore Plaza Civic Center.
The Lakota Nation Invitational is an annual four-day basketball tournament put on by Natives for Natives. Aside from basketball, competitions are held for volleyball, wrestling, archery, academics, and games unique to Lakota culture. Powwows and arts showcases further the event’s impact.
LNI generally brings in around $6 million to the local economy. In 2014, over three thousand students participated.
Those in favor of the move say attracting people and profits to the city is ill advised while racism against Natives clearly exists in the local sports scene–especially considering the measly charge of “disorderly conduct” enacted against a single perpetrator of January’s incident. Many are dissatisfied with the city’s handling of the hate crime and concerned for the safety of young LNI participants.
“I don’t want to totally abandon our relatives living in Rapid City but with the recent incidents in the city we are going to start looking at other options,” stated tournament director and former Oglala Sioux Tribal President Bryan Brewer, who has reached out to officials in other South Dakota locales such as Sioux Falls.
Brewer says racial disparities in Rapid City reach far beyond isolated incidents. Problems such as mistreatment from law enforcement and a lack of outreach to Natives on the part of local government contribute to the push for a new home base.
Rapid City Mayor Sam Kooiker remains strongly opposed to moving the event, “Blaming the entire community for this situation misses the point that there are many people here in this community that support reconciliation and have a heart for addressing racial issues.”
Note: the prospect of moving is not exactly an act of “blame”, rather, a reaction to a very real threat against the people this event strives to honor.
LNI’s 38 year home in Rapid City does have positive aspects. Many reservations exist just outside of the city, making for affordable travels to and from the event. Accessibility is key in a celebration that values inclusion. Additionally, the event livens up the local area and brings about awareness by highlighting cultural heritage on a large scale.
Whether or not the Lakota Nation Invitational moves, racism towards Native Americans within South Dakota and the rest of the country must be seriously addressed. Violence and disrespect threaten Natives just outside of their front doors. It is disheartening to see yet another Lakota spectacle hindered by ignorance and due time to eliminate the need for these kinds of decisions to be faced in the first place.
Is this a necessary step to pushing local attention towards Rapid City’s racial issues and protecting the spirit of the gathering? Let us know what you think–should the Lakota Nation Invitational stay in Rapid City, or move forward in search of a new host city?