Forty years ago, the inaugural Lakota Nation Invitational (LNI) was held at Pine Ridge High School. The basketball tournament developed out of tensions resulting from the American Indian Movement’s occupation of Wounded Knee in 1973. Following AIM’s occupation, area schools were reluctant to play ball with students from Pine Ridge. Bryan Brewer, then Pine Ridge’s basketball coach, decided to start a tournament of his own.
Brewer contacted schools in other states to play in the tournament, as told by The New Yorker Magazine. Seven schools agreed to compete in the 1976 tournament, which packed the Pine Ridge gymnasium. Three years later, the tournament relocated to the recently constructed Rushmore Plaza Civic Center Arena in order to better accommodate large crowds of spectators.
The tournament has seen significant growth and changes since its inception. Originally a gathering just for basketball games, the tournament now boasts a variety of events including traditional Lakota hand games, knowledge and language bowls, a student art show, a business plan competition and more.
To learn more about the Lakota Nation Invitational, visit the Black Hills Knowledge Network’s online news archive.