(Photographs courtesy of Tara Rose Weston photography)
The Lakota Nation Invitational (LNI) is an annual event in Rapid City, SD that brings together Lakota youth and Lakota communities from across the state of South Dakota for activities including basketball, handgames, language bowl, knowledge bowl, archery, and poetry slam tournaments. This year, LCE served as a co-organizer for the 5th annual Youth Poetry Slam, as an educational vendor, and as a presenter at the Lakota Nations Education Conference.
LCE co-organized the 5th annual Youth Poetry Slam which took place Thursday, December 14th. The Poetry Slam was organized by First Peoples Fund’s Dance with Words program for the last four years. As an alumni of the Dances with Words program, LCE executive director, Autumn White Eyes created this new partnership for LCE. On event day, more than 75 people gathered to watch 20 Lakota youth poets perform. Laree Pourier, Dances with Words Program Manager, noted that the event attendance had more than doubled from the year before.
LCE’s executive director, Autumn White Eyes facilitated a poet circle with breathing exercises and team building activities at the beginning of the event to help students prepare for their performances. Students used this time as an opportunity to meet one another, and discuss the importance of sharing their stories and poetry with their community.
The event began with azilya (smudging), a type of praying in Lakota Culture where sage is burned to purify the mind and body. Youth poets spoke about a variety of issues impacting their lives such as colonialism, poverty, sexual assault, and depression and suicide. First People Fund’s, Angel Two Bulls led a decompression station in the room as a refuge for students who experience triggers throughout the event, because many youth spoke about issues related to trauma.
Talon Bazille Ducheneaux, a Lakota hiphop and spokeword artist, was the event’s MC, and ended the slam with an incredible performance! Talon reflected upon the event and said, “I felt their stories and their pains and their happiness and their hopes and everything. I’ve never felt that close to home before.”
Lakota Nation Invitational was an opportunity for LCE to get the word out about our work. Youth Advisory Board members Lane Anthony Bordeaux and Angelique White Eyes led an LCE vendor booth and spoke to over 100 community members about our upcoming writing and art challenge, and gave away bracelets that say, “Wakȟáŋyeža kiŋ wakȟáŋ, #ChildrenAreSacred,” a very important teaching in Lakota culture. Autumn attended the Lakota Nations Education Conference and presented to Lakota educators on ways they can bring hip-hop and spoken-word into their classrooms and how it relates to Lakota culture.
Check out this interview with our executive director on the poetry slam, and if you are interested in partnering with our work, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Donations can also be made here!