South Dakota Native Nations Gather for Oceti Vote Festival - a Weekend of Voter Registration, Music, Basketball, Special Guests and Cultural Celebration
October 4, 2022
The Event, Hosted by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the Lakota People’s Law Project, Will Take Place on Sat., Oct. 22 and Sun, Oct. 23 in Rapid City. Other event partners are Thunder Valley CDC, the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, and the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe.
Fort Yates, N.D. 11/3/22 — The drive won’t stop at the basket when the Great Sioux Nation gathers for two days filled with games, culture, and voter empowerment at the Oceti Vote Festival this Oct. 22 & 23 in Rapid City, S.D. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the Lakota People’s Law Project will host Lakota Country’s first intertribal three-on-three basketball tournament, an Oceti hand games competition and singing contest with cash prizes and a Saturday Night concert, all as a means of getting Native people registered and ready to vote in the 2022 midterm elections this November. Other event partners are the Thunder Valley CDC, the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, and the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe.
“It’s a unique chance to combine things people in tribal nations already love to do — play basketball, music, and hand games — with something we need to do more of, voting,” says Shaun Little Horn, Athletic Events Coordinator for the Lakota People’s Law Project. “We expect teams from several nations, and we anticipate the crowd to exceed 1,000 people. Every registered attendee of voting age will be entered into a raffle for a cash prize, and we’ll help people get registered onsite. It’s going to be a lot of fun — and also an effective way of increasing Native voter turnout this year.”
To be held at the Rapid Skillz 360 athletic training facility in Rapid City, S.D., the event will feature a basketball tournament with men’s and women’s divisions in three age groups (14-18, 19-32, and 33 and over on Saturday, Oct. 22. During the tournament, organizers say, a very special Naitve guest with a connection to basketball will make an appearance.
Standing Rock Sioux Chairwoman Janet Alkire will provide an opening address. Invitations to attend and register teams have been sent to influencers and institutions throughout Lakota Country, and to all nine tribes within the Great Sioux Nation, known by Native populations as the Oceti Sakowin.
“It’s important that Standing Rock spearhead this effort to make sure our Native voices are heard, loud and clear, at the polls this year,” says Alkire. “Bringing tribal nations together to exercise our right to vote strengthens our sovereignty and protects our treaties. As recently as 1962, our relatives in Utah were still prohibited from voting, and today Native people still face too many barriers. We must continue the voting advocacy we undertook during the 2018 and 2020 election seasons.”
In 2018, in response to voter identification laws passed on the eve of the election in North Dakota, Standing Rock, with the help of celebrity activists and nonprofits including the Lakota People’s Law Project, organized to distribute new IDs to more than 700 tribal members. In 2020, Standing Rock and Lakota Law ran a call center that employed more than 30 tribal members as phone bankers. They dialed more than a quarter million phone numbers, having conversations with thousands of tribal members and environmental voters in states like Arizona and Georgia in the run-up to the 2020 election.
Then, over the past year, the Oglala and Rosebud Sioux Tribes were joined as plaintiffs by the Lakota People’s Law Project and individual tribal members in a suit against the State of South Dakota for its repeated violations of the National Voter Registration Act. That lawsuit was recently settled in the plaintiffs’ favor, and the judgment will require the state to enact a host of changes designed to ensure compliance with the law and provide adequate voter registration services for all.
“For too long, Native People have been ignored and discriminated against at the ballot box,” says Chase Iron Eyes, Lakota People’s Law Project Co-Director. “Our legal win against South Dakota, our current effort to register Native voters, and past campaigns we have undertaken in partnership with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe demonstrate a real commitment by Native people to increase our participation in democracy.”
The list of participants and scope of cultural activities for the festival are still expanding. The raffles, both days, will feature cash prizes of $118 (in acknowledgement of Election Day on 11/8) for winners selected from among fans who demonstrate current voter registration. A combined $4,300 in cash prizes will go to the top placing competitors in the hand games and singing competitions.
More information is available and portions of the event will be streamed live at give.lakotalaw.org. Free tickets and registration information are available at the event’s website — OcetiVote.org — or at the door. View the event flier right here, and event calendar managers are encouraged to add the festival to their lineups.