Faces in the Crowd: Whitney Rencountre
Whitney Rencountre started his journey as a competitor and now is a leader in the community
RAPID CITY, S.D. – The Lakota Nation Invitational began on the Pine Ridge Reservation over 40 years ago. The LNI was created for more competitive opportunities for Native American youth. It has now grown into tens of thousands of students competing in a variety of athletic, educational and cultural events at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center.
It’s gone through many changes over the years, but one thing that remains the same is the support of the people. Whitney Rencountre started his journey as a competitor and now is a leader in the community.
Rencountre’s presence has impacted the Black Hills for the past 20 years, helping to make strides with race connections in the Black Hills communities.
Rencountre says, “I think I have a unique perspective, with my grandparents, my family on the reservation. From what I’ve saw, I believe a lot of the problems that we face today are from a lack of communication, and a lot of it is misunderstanding. And I think we can grow by working with one another by having opportunities to communicate. We can share our experiences … I think you can agree or disagree at times, but you can still be friends and work together towards a common goal.”
Rencountre grew up on the Crow Creek Sioux Reservation and attended Black Hills State University after high school. He’s passionate about his work with the Rural America Initiatives program “Ateyapi,” which means “fatherhood” in Lakota. The mentoring program passes down cultural teachings and helps to connect students to cultural values and traditions along with school tutoring.
He’s also involved with the Club for Boys and is the chair-elect for Visit Rapid City. He says he offers a unique perspective as a board member – to help the public understand cultural events in the area as a participant and a leader.
A better tomorrow for the youth is what motivates him to be so heavily involved – as he sees value in building bridges between cultures.
“A lot of these events that are happening in our city, we just encourage people to continue to learn and experience and keep an open mind and an open heart about some of these great things that are taking place in our community.
“We feel like we have a great foundation for a lot of the positive change that is happening across this region … We are very honored and appreciative to be involved with the people of our community that are on board to help build bridges and help with race relations in our community because our children greatly benefit from it, so we appreciate a lot of the things that are happening.”
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