The value of the Lakota Nation Invitational to Rapid City is undisputed; what is now open for debate is the event's future in the community that has welcomed it for 38 years.
According to a report, Oglala Sioux tribal leaders met this week and are pushing the LNI board to move it to a different city. If the independent tournament board decides against the move, tribal members will be asked to boycott the event that has been held every December for nearly four decades, leaders reportedly said.
The tournament includes basketball games and academic challenges, and serves as the base for family reunions for many Native Americans. It draws thousands of people each year and pumps millions of dollars into the Rapid City economy. It is the second-largest event of the year for the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center.
The LNI board operates independently, but calls for moving the popular basketball and cultural event out of Rapid City were heard from several quarters almost immediately after a report that Native American children were sprayed with beer and subjected to racial slurs during a Rapid City Rush hockey game in January.
Police charged a man with disorderly conduct, but many Native Americans say the charge isn't stiff enough.
Charles "Chuck" Wilson, president of the LNI board, could not be reached for comment.
But, Jayne Kraemer, assistant executive director of the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center, said on Thursday that she was contacted by Wilson after his board met on on Feb. 11.
At that meeting, the board voted 7-0 to keep the event in Rapid City, Kraemer said. The dates for this year's event are already blocked off and the LNI board has the contracts, she said.
Kraemer has worked with the board for the past 16 years. The two organizations have a good relationship, she said. But she said she knows the LNI board is receiving pressure to move the event.
"We will continue to be positive, work with them and hope for the best," Kraemer said.
During a march against injustice in Rapid City on Thursday, Bryan Brewer, a top LNI official and founder, said city leadership needs to present a plan to ease racial tensions, especially if LNI is to continue its decades-long presence in Rapid City.
“The Lakota Nations Invitational, right now, we don’t want to leave Rapid City. This is our home also," he said. "We've been here for 38 years, and we want to stay and fight this issue. We don’t want to run. But if we have to, we will. We will be out of Rapid City."
The Associated Press contributed to this story.