The Lakota Nation Invitational Tournament began in the early 1970s as a sporting event. Basketball, by far the most popular sport in Lakota Country, proved a real draw, and for years crowds flocked to Rapid City, South Dakota to see boys and girls teams compete on all levels.
There have been additions to the tournament since the early days, most notably a Lakota Language Bowl. Here teams from the various reservation schools compete with their peers to define words and create sentences in Lakota. The crowds are meager compared to the basketball games, but the pressure is high. Philomine Lakota told the film crew that “these kids are in the battle of their lives. If they don’t learn this language, speak it daily, teach their families to speak it, they will lose the battle of the Lakota language.”