Lakota Nation Educational Conference Kicks Off

Posted by Heather Benson on

The Lakota Nation Invitational basketball tournament is in its 40th year this year.  Created in the wake of the Wounded Knee occupation in the 1970s, it was a way to fill the basketball schedule of reservation teams at a time when other schools were reluctant play them.

Today, the “LNI” as it is colloquially known, has become much more than just a place to play basketball, it has become one of the most important fixtures on the calendar of many schools.  Beyond the courts at the Civic center, members of the greater tribal education community meet in Rapid City each year for the Lakota National Education Conference.

While students play or cheer on their favorite team at the basketball tournament, the Lakota Nation Education conference is a place where teachers and parents come together to learn skills to support whole child development.  This year’s conference sessions range from science education to cultural integration to suicide prevention.

booth4.jpegSDPB booth at 2015 Lakota Nation Education Conference

SDPB’s Education Specialist, Steve Rokusek, has taken part in the education conference for several years and describes it as a “big family gathering”.  “I see people come back year after year from all parts of the state and we’ve gotten to know each other from this one event,” he shares. “This is one education conference that isn’t just for teachers, it something that entire communities take part in.”

This year’s conference will run from December 14th through the 17th at the Ramkota Inn and Hilton Garden Inn in Rapid City.  The first morning of the conference features a panel discussion on “Indian Education Today” with panel members such as South Dakota Secretary of Education Melody Schopp, Standing Rock Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault and South Dakota Indian Education Director Mato Standing High.

Speakers for this year’s conference feature a variety of experts from various fields, including early childhood development, cultural history and mental health. The list also includes speakers who are there to provide inspiration for the possibilities of tribal children.

One of this year’s keynote speakers is Samantha Tucker, an enrolled member of the Oglala Lakota Sioux Tribe.  After suffering a motorcycle accident that took her arm, she overcame all obstacles to become a Paralympic archer and Team USA representative in the 2016 Rio games.  Her presentation “Impossible is an Opinion, Not a Fact” will be featured both Thursday and Friday and tells her story of fortitude and dedication to overcoming life obstacles.

Conference session highlights also include a training specific to “Trauma, Mental Health and Healing in Indian Country” that will provide certificates for educators that attend.  Other sessions focus on STEM learning, Lakota language and culture curriculum integration and family-centered learning about parenting and education. The sessions take place throughout the morning and afternoons Wednesday through Saturday.  “Evenings are reserved for basketball,” shares Steve. “At the end of each day, entire communities meet up in the Civic Center and watch the games.”

A full conference schedule may be found at http://www.lakotanationsconference.com/

Steven Rokusek’s participation in LNI is made possible, in part, by a grant from the John T. Vucurevich Foundation.

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