Water, Life and Basketball: The Lakota Nation Invitational (Photo Gallery)

This year's Lakota Nation Invitational was a cause for celebration and a show of respect

Teammates on the Winnebago Indians sideline wear #WaterIsLife on their warmups. Thosh Collins

Thosh Collins

Teammates on the Winnebago Indians sideline wear #WaterIsLife on their warmups.

A moment of intensity during the Thorpes vs. Indians semifinal match. Thosh Collins

Thosh Collins

A moment of intensity during the Thorpes vs. Indians semifinal match.

Red Cloud vs Todd County on Thursday evening. Thosh Collins

Thosh Collins

Red Cloud vs Todd County on Thursday evening.

A dominant player on the Winnebago Indians, David Wingett lead his team to the championship this year. Thosh Collins

Thosh Collins

A dominant player on the Winnebago Indians, David Wingett lead his team to the championship this year.

The semifinal tip-off Friday night: Winnebago Indians vs Pine Ridge Thorpes. Thosh Collins

Thosh Collins

The semifinal tip-off Friday night: Winnebago Indians vs Pine Ridge Thorpes.

Cheerleaders for the Pine Ridge Thorpes display acrobatic talents before the game. Thosh Collins

Thosh Collins

Cheerleaders for the Pine Ridge Thorpes display acrobatic talents before the game

LNI players show that they support their fellow Native communities in a fight for clean water by representing #WaterIsLife. Thosh Collins

Thosh Collins

LNI players show that they support their fellow Native communities in a fight for clean water by representing #WaterIsLife.

Players on the bench watch anxiously in the semifinal game. Thosh Collins

Thosh Collins

Players on the bench watch anxiously in the semifinal game.

All in for the rebound. Thosh Collins

Thosh Collins

All in for the rebound.

Girls teams demonstrate a tradition of sportsmanship before their game Thursday night. Thosh Collins

Thosh Collins

Girls teams demonstrate a tradition of sportsmanship before their game Thursday night.

The 40th annual Lakota Nation Invitational is more than just a competitive basketball tournament. It’s a massive athletics-based gathering with a focus on Native youth that has drawn thousands of people for the past half century right near the sacred Black Hills in Rapid City, SD. Basketball is the main draw, with dozens of high school boys and girls teams competing for the coveted title each year. But basketball is by no means the only competition at LNI. Over the years, the offerings have diversified to include something for everyone: volleyball, cross-country, hand games, cheerleading, business plans, wrestling, powwow, Lakota language bowl, art shows, knowledge bowl, poetry slam, and more. Like any other gathering, tangential events fill LNI week with even more activity, attracting vendors, professional workshops, higher education recruiting, and so much more.

This year, Lakota Nation Invitational started out with a special and symbolic outreach by the Rapid City Police Department. The police escorted team buses from reservations all over to the Civic Center, where the tournament would take place. At the Civic Center, players walked down a red carpet and joined Rapid City officials and representatives from the Rapid City Visitor and Convention Center for a welcome dinner.This show of outreach and appreciation was counter to the reputation that Rapid City has developed over the years as being unwelcoming to Native people or unappreciative of the economic boost that Native-based events like LNI bring to the city in tourism dollars.

As for the main event–the basketball tournament–the undefeated Winnebago Indians took the championship title for the second year in a row, beating Red Cloud in the finals by a whopping 97-51 Saturday night.

ICMN photographer Thosh Collins captured some of the preliminary and semifinal basketball games.Enjoy these photos of tough competition and good sportsmanship from the 40th annual Lakota Nation Invitational.

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Water, Life and Basketball: The Lakota Nation Invitational (Photo Gallery)

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