June 15, 2009

Skateboarding = Native culture

Tribe, skate culture tied together

Pala park is featured in new exhibit at Museum of the American Indian

By Onell R. Soto
Gordon scoped out the Pala park during a visit to San Diego for the Action Sports Retailer trade show and knew she had to include it in the exhibit, which opened Friday and runs through Sept. 13.

“I picked Pala because, as a tribe, they showed an incredible investment in their youth by giving them a skate park,” she said. “They could have given their kids anything. They didn't build another softball park.”

The exhibit includes not only photographs of Pala's park, but also the flat parts of skateboards--called decks--featuring the tribe's name and logo.

Important connection Gordon sees an important connection between skating--an offshoot of the native Hawaiian sport of surfing--and native culture in that for young people, it is about the search for self through physical tests.

“These native kids, it's a way they can be connected to their tribal identities,” she said. “I do think that the skate park can be this proving ground.”
And:American Indian skaters compete during powwows and in a big competition in Albuquerque every year. Many of the competitions include prayers by elders and cleansing rituals involving the smoke of sage and other plants, Gordon said.

“I'm not seeing that anywhere else,” she said.

The Smithsonian exhibit also chronicles the connection between skating, art and commerce.

It includes decks by Pala skater Chris Nieto, whose company, Remnant Skateboards, features a logo of a skull and crossbones with an Indian headdress.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Skateboarding = Hot Trend and Skateboarders, Rappers, and Punk Rockers.

Below:  "Victor Medellin rode his skateboard at the Pala Indian Reservation's skate park last week. The park is featured in an exhibit at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C." (K.C. Alfred / Union-Tribune)

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