One of South Dakota’s largest sports and Lakota cultural events has been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Lakota Nation Invitational board voted Friday to cancel all 2020 events “due to the rising numbers and concerns about safety for our students/athletes, fans and workers due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” LNI and the Civic Center said in a news release.
“It was a very difficult decision to have to cancel this years event, obviously the concerns with COVID-19 pushed us to this decision,” said LNI Board President Chuck Wilson. “We’ve already started making plans for the 2021 LNI, with the addition of the new arena, LNI will be bigger and better,” he said in reference to the new arena being constructed.
“I’m saddened that we had to cancel this year, but we will be back bigger and better next year,” said LNI founder and director Bryan Brewer.
Rapid City Mayor Steve Allender expressed similar sentiments in a news release.
“I appreciate the time, hard work and extensive review undertaken by the LNI Board to reach this very difficult but understandable decision,” he said. “The LNI is known worldwide for showcasing the skills and talents of young people and thousands of people look forward to this annual event … I look forward to working with (the board) to host a bigger and better event in 2021.”
LNI began in 1976 as an eight-team basketball tournament on the Pine Ridge Reservation. It moved to Rapid City in 1979 as it “swiftly became the premier event in the state of South Dakota and the upper Midwest,” the release says.
LNI now has a 32-team basketball tournament for high school girls and boys. There are other sport competitions and cultural events, such as a Lakota language bowl, poetry slam and art show.
Teams and participants come from across South Dakota and some neighboring states.