March 17, 2010

Skateboard replaces pony on the rez?

Connecting to a Culture Using 4 Wheels

By Karen Jonesdemographics. “Ramp It Up: Skateboard Culture in Native America,” an exhibition at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian at One Bowling Green in Manhattan, celebrates the sport from a Native American perspective, said the project manager, Betsy Gordon. “Native skateboarding is a thriving, extremely creative, strongly passionate movement and only getting bigger and better,” she said. She added that tribal leaders were investing in skate parks to provide their youth with a place for healthy physical activity.

The exhibition, which runs through June 27, features a chronology of the sport, photographs, videos of skaters doing their tricks and personally decorated boards from Native American skaters and skateboard companies like Wounded Knee Skateboards, Native Skates and 4wheelwarpony, owned by the filmmaker Dustinn Craig, a White Mountain Apache. A film, also called “4wheelwarpony,” by Mr. Craig about White Mountain Apache skateboarders helped inspire “Ramp It Up,” said Ms. Gordon. “I was struck by the metaphor that the skateboard has replaced the pony on reservation life.”
Comment:  I know the "skateboard replacing pony" thing is supposed to be a metaphor, but it seems a bit off. For one thing, the Plains tribes were the primary ones with a significant horse culture. Most tribes didn't have such a culture. For another, young boys probably wouldn't be riding "war ponies" even in horse cultures. I think that was reserved for older teenagers and adults.

So the metaphor really should be "skateboards replace the ponies boys would ride when they grew up to be men in Plains tribes."

In any case, if skateboarding can draw troubled Native youth into a productive activity, or at least a harmless pastime, it's good. Let's encourage these kids to do whatever excites them, whether it's skateboarding, rapping, filmmaking, pony-riding, or chess-playing. <g>

For more on the subject, see From Skatepark to Museum Exhibit, Ramp It Up Video, and Skateboarders at the NMAI.

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