Invitational will bring 8,000 to Rapid City this weekend
RIDGE INDIAN RESERVATION After a full day of classes, Christi
Sioux Bob 14 walks into Red Cloud Indian School's recently
expanded Wellness Center and eyes the new weights and training equipment.
She has been preparing for the Lakota Nation Invitational, a yearly
tournament of the mind and body, and it finally starts this week.
The room is bright and clean and the walls are covered with motivational
quotes and a list of state champions from years past. She looks
up at one that reads, "Never let weakness convince you that you
lack strength." And then she reaches for a weight and starts in
on her regimen.
"I'm incredibly excited to head back to LNI this year," says
Christi. "I'm a senior, so this is my last year and I plan to play
as hard as I can for a win."
From the outside, LNI might look like a typical high school
tournament, but its history tells a deeper story. In 1977, many
non-reservation high schools would not host or play Native American
teams. Bryan Brewer, who today serves as the Oglala Sioux Tribe's
president, decided that year to organize the "All-Indian Tournament,"
a basketball competition on the Pine Ridge Reservation that would
allow Native teams across western South Dakota to showcase their
In just a few years, the event became a tremendous source of
pride for Native youth and communities across the region. It moved
to Rapid City in 1979 to accommodate rising numbers of participants,
families and fans. It was renamed the Lakota Nation Invitational
in 1987, and today it engages teams from more than 15 high schools
in Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota. From its small beginnings,
LNI has grown into a four-day event that brings together more than
2,500 student-athletes from on and off the reservation to compete
in sports from wrestling to archery.
And today, LNI is about more than athletics. LNI also includes
contests in art, Lakota
language, and knowledge, as well as educational conferences
and a business plan competition for aspiring entrepreneurs. In addition,
for the first time this year, there will be a TWKO
poetry slam aimed at inspiring Native youth to create original
narratives about life on and off the reservation.
More than 8,000 spectators are expected to watch this week's
competitions at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center. And that support
means everything to the student-athletes participating.
"I played at LNI for four years when I was a student at Red
Cloud. The team won the tournament my senior year and it was an
amazing feeling!" says Christian McGhee '08, Red Cloud High School's
athletic director and head basketball coach.
Christian says he will never forget racing down the court, evading
opposing guards and attempting intricate shots while being cheered
on by family and friends. And this year, he is looking forward to
watching his own student-athletes experience the same excitement.
Photos from the 2012 Lakota Nation Invitational
"Students on the reservation don't get a lot of new things or
experiences very often," says Christian. "I think participating
in such a massive tournament represents a real achievement for young
Native athletes. The ability to play on a real court in a big city
students like Christi, athletics are not just a pastime but also
a source of motivation to succeed, both on and off the court. At
Red Cloud, she knows that her court time does not come without good
grades. In the Jesuit tradition, Red Cloud students and faculty
believe that a well-rounded education necessarily includes training
both the mind and bodyboth muscle and intellect.
"They all know that they are students first and athletes second,"
says Christian. "We require that they keep up their grades or they
can't play. No exceptions."
Today on campus, Red Cloud students have the resources to train
both mind and body. After a full day of rigorous classes, they can
work out in the newly modernized Wellness Center, thanks to generous
local and national supporters. Students are developing the strength
needed to push for a win at this year's LNI competition.
"After school the [girls] team often has a study hall while
the boy's team practices in the gym," says Christi. "I try to finish
up my homework and, recently, I've been working on college applications.
Then we'll head to the gym and Wellness Center to work out."
Christian is thrilled with the Wellness Center's update, which
he thinks is giving his team an edge.
"When I was at Red Cloud just a few years ago, our equipment
was incomplete. Having an equipped Wellness Center on campus is
a huge improvement and gives the students a positive place to go
to prepare themselves for events like LNI," says Christian.
"I think we have a real shot at taking the championship this
year. I can't wait to see what the competition brings!"
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