Sports ban ordinance lifted on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation

High school team sports have been allowed to resume on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

The Oglala Sioux Tribe voted Monday night to change the reservation’s shelter-in-place ordinance to allow schools to participate in winter sports. It is at the discretion of each school whether or not to proceed with a winter sports season, and those who do are required to submit a safety plan to the Tribal Education Committee.

Red Cloud High School submitted a plan to the committee ahead of Monday’s meeting. It was approved, allowing Class A Crusaders to begin their seasons Friday night at Marty. These contests will be the first of 11 scheduled matches for the Red Cloud girls and the first of 13 matches for the boys. It should be noted that teams must play 10 games for post-season purposes. For each game difference between the games actually played and the minimum, the team will be awarded a loss of level 4 power points. Their actual record will be used to calculate the points for the opponent’s wins/losses.

The Red Cloud Safety Plan includes the guidelines implemented by the SDHSAA and NFHS (i.e. screening for symptoms, bringing your own water bottles, etc.), along with a few additional requirements. Crusader athletes and coaches will be required to wear a mask at all times, both during practices and during games. Workouts will be limited to a maximum of 10 athletes per session (any sport) and any exercise requiring contact will be no longer than 10 minutes at a time.

Red Cloud fans react to a play during the 2018 Class A Men's Basketball Tournament.

Fans will not be allowed at Red Cloud home games and parents are asked to transport their students to away games.

“Red Cloud Indian School is committed to ensuring the safety of students and staff,” reads the plan’s opening statement. “Precautions are in place to ensure safe participation in team and individual sports.”

The path to Monday’s amendment was cleared, at least in part, by Lakota Tech.

Opened in 2020, Lakota Tech is a public school in the Oglala Lakota County School District, which means it is not legally bound by tribal ordinance. As a result, Class A Tatanka began its seasons in December. They have a variety of safety measures in place, including a mask requirement for all players, coaches and team staff that extends to practices and games.

Lakota Tech adhered to its security plan and encountered no major setbacks. “If that hadn’t happened, it would have been difficult (to get the amendment passed),” James Bagwell, Crazy Horse athletic director and women’s basketball coach, said on Tuesday.

Lakota Tech Tatanka

“With Lakota Tech stepping forward and doing what they do, gaining support from community and school members, putting their safety plan into practice, they have shown that we are not here just because we want to play,” he continued. “We want to make sure we’re protecting the tribe and our students, so we’re going to do it the right way. They exemplified that perfectly.”

While Crazy Horse — much like Little Wound and Pine Ridge High — doesn’t plan to play sports this winter, Bagwell said he will submit a request to the school board next week to reopen the gymnasium, which has since been closed. March, and start holding practices. “I can’t wait to see my kids running around the field,” Bagwell laughed.

As for the return to competition, schools are looking to spring for the volleyball, football (All Nations Conference) and basketball seasons. “It’s definitely promising,” Bagwell said of the shelter-in-place amendment.

“It means that we are taking a big step forward, trying to overcome this situation and working with the situation that is given to us,” he continued. “And we do it while thinking about the safety of our students.”

Follow Brian Haenchen on Twitter at @Brian_Haenchen.

Nohemi M. Moore