Lakota National Invitational kicks off with red carpet welcome

RAPID CITY, S.D. –  It was a grand welcome on Tuesday night to hundreds of young athletes in Rapid City for one of the state’s biggest cultural events of the year, The Lakota Nation Invitational.

Young athletes from as far as 450 miles away arrived in Rapid City in style with a police escort form local law enforcement. The third annual red carpet welcome kicked off the LNI with cheers, high fives, and a massive meal.

“It really makes our children feel welcome to Rapid,” said Bryan Brewer, the executive director of the LNI. “It’s a chance to get them all together before the tournament. In fact, it’s the only time all of them will be together.”

Though the LNI began as just a basketball tournament, it’s since grown into a massive cultural spectacle. The tournament features a pow wow, hand games, and a Lakota language competition.

Brewer said the LNI also connects young adults with their native heritage.

“This is the only event that brings all tribes together; all the tribes are here,” said Brewer. “They’re all here, every one of them. This is the only one that can do that. It’s a good event.”

The LNI started 42 years ago in the wake of the Wounded Knee Incident in 1973. Today, the gathering showcases the diverse Native American culture and the role it plays in South Dakota’s identity.

“It was probably always there, it was just a little more hidden,” said Craig Baltzer, the executive director of the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center. “Now it’s out front where its embraced, and it’s embraced being in town.”

The LNI runs through Saturday, with most of the events at the Civic Center.

For a complete list of events, click here.

Categories: Local News, South Dakota News