Hopi teens see the need for a skateboard park, make it happen

TEWA VILLAGE, Ariz. (AP) — They skateboarded across basketball courts and parking lots, through freeway intersections and on roads that swerve from the mesas that rise above the high desert .

They set up towers with old railroad ties and lumber, sometimes using their own skateboards to move the materials into place. During a pandemic that led to lockdowns, curfews and mask mandates on the Hopi reservation, the solo nature of skateboarding was a solace.

But the reservation that borders Arizona’s northeast corner didn’t have a designated skate spot. So a group of Hopi teenagers did, seeing a project they initially thought would take months and showing the Hopi cultural value of sumi’nangwa – coming together for the greater good.

“I hope this inspires other youth groups to try and do something like this to make the Hopi community a better place for future generations of our people,” said Quintin “Q” Nahsonhoya, one of the few co-responsible for the project.

The skateboarding destination opened in late spring in the village of Tewa. It’s called Skate 264 for the highway that crosses the 2,500 square mile (6,474 square kilometer) Hopi reservation and connects more than a dozen villages. Kira Nevayaktewa created the logo which features a cat named “Skategod” who was part of the crew.

The youth group first wanted to make sure the community wanted a skate park, so they interviewed residents who were overwhelmingly supportive of the idea. The group received a branding grant, sold merchandise to raise funds, secured a plot of land, and secured material donations through partnerships.

Skateparks have been popping up all over Indian Country in recent years, many of which are run by young people. Some competitions host like that of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota or the All Nations Skate Jam organized during the pow-wow of the gathering of nations in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on much smaller spots like those of Hopi. Native Americans have also created their own brands of skateboards that feature traditional designs with modern touches. The sport that has Indigenous roots tied to surfing has gained even more acceptance since its debut at the 2020 Olympics, said Betsy Gordon, who curated an exhibit on skateboarding in Indigenous communities at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian.

“It gives it legitimacy in the eyes of a lot of adults, the people who make the rules or who fund (skateparks),” she said. ”

The creators of the Hopi skate spot – all teenagers when they started working there in late 2020 – make it clear that skateboarding is for everyone. Go at your own pace. Create your own style. No one is too good to fall, they say in an online feature from Wipe Out Wednesday.

In one of their videos, someone picks up a skateboard for the first time, learns new tricks, and is celebrated even when they don’t land them.

“For Hopi, a lot of things have to be done from the heart and not wanting to give up,” said Terrill Humeyestewa, one of the co-leads. “Skateboarding is kind of the same principle as that. Have a good mind, strong heart, think about what you’re doing it for and you’ll be fine.

The co-leaders, who also include Laela Nevayaktewa and Jacque Thorpe, have a mix of shy and outspoken characteristics. Each of them became comfortable speaking with people outside their family and friend circle. They secured approval from the village of Tewa for land to build the skate spot – no mean feat on tribal lands where development requires approval from clans, permit holders or the community. community at large.

The group raised funds by selling beanies, stickers and shirts at roadside stalls. Nahsonhoya’s father, Brandon, and stepmother, Valaura, served as fiscal sponsors and partnered with a Phoenix-area skateboard company that donated the ramp and accessories, and other who donated concrete for the foundation. Other family members and the wider community helped with manual labor, feeding the crew or providing advice.

Some of the co-leaders have graduated from high school since the start of the project, others are in the process of finishing it. While safety was a priority, they said they also wanted to bring joy to others through skateboarding, stay active and avoid bad influences.

“It keeps you from doing nothing with your time, and that’s how I see Hopi and skateboarding coming together, filling your days and your time with something positive,” Thorpe said.

Adult mentors lent their skills in video production, photography, graphic design and organization to keep the group on track and encourage them.

“I didn’t know skateboarding, but what I do know is community organizing and local fundraising, and I have a lot of connections in the community, so I can relate with you,” Samantha said. Honanie, a mentor. the group.

“If they believed in themselves, we would guide them through this process,” said Paul Molina, another mentor.

The village of Tewa now oversees the park and will eventually have security guards to patrol the area. Village leaders hope to add lights and a basketball court next to the youth softball fields, said Deidra Honyumptewa, president of the village board.

“It’s a huge testament to us leaders, or seniors, that these kids can get things done and they see the need for it,” she said.


Fonseca covers indigenous communities in AP’s Race and Ethnicity team. Follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/FonsecaAP

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