Lakota Nation Invitational tips off WednesdayRAPID CITY (AP) — High school basketball players from predominantly Native American schools are descending on South Dakota's Black Hills for Wednesday's tip off of the Lakota Nation Invitational basketball tournament.
By: DIRK LAMMERS, The Associated Press
RAPID CITY (AP) — High school basketball players from predominantly Native American schools are descending on South Dakota's Black Hills for Wednesday's tip off of the Lakota Nation Invitational basketball tournament.
The 35th annual tournament, which draws 16 girls' and 16 boys' teams, is part of a larger cultural event that draws thousands of Native Americans to Rapid City for an educational summit, a Lakota language bowl, a knowledge bowl, a business plan competition, an art show and a powwow.
"As the years went by, we kept adding things," said Bryan Brewer, the tournament's director.
Opening round games begin at 10 a.m. Wednesday.
Basketball legend Bill Russell, a Hall of Famer who played for the Boston Celtics, is expected to make an appearance on Friday night, when games typically draw crowds of more than 7,000.
"A lot of it depends on who's playing and the weather," Brewer said.
Brewer created the small Lakota Nation Invitational tournament on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in the 1970s with Native American teams out of Nebraska and Kansas. Tribal leaders were having trouble getting teams to play on the reservation after the American Indian Movement's 71-day occupation of Wounded Knee, and they needed the event to fill their basketball schedules.
Within three years it grew too big for Pine Ridge, and the Lakota Nation Invitational headed west just as the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center was opening.
"We played the first basketball game at the Civic Center, and we're still here," Brewer said.
Security at the event has been beefed up since 2009, when the tournament was marred by a shooting outside the Civic Center during the final Wednesday night games. To ensure safety, the Rapid City Police Department works with the U.S. Department of Justice, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Oglala Sioux Tribe Department of Public Safety and the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Police Department, Brewer said.