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Ramp It Up: Skateboard Culture in Native America

A look at some of the works featured in the Smithsonian traveling exhibition "Ramp It Up: Skateboard Culture in Native America," on view at the San Diego Museum of Man April 28-September 9, 2012.

Gila River Indian skateboarder, 2009
A skater drops into the half-pipe at the Gila River Indian Community’s skate park in Sacaton, Ariz.

Gila River Indian skateboarder, 2009 A skater drops into the half-pipe at the Gila River Indian Community’s skate park in Sacaton, Ariz.

Credit: Courtesy Gila River Indian Community Public Information Office

Lee Nash (White Mountain Apache) of the 4-Wheel Warpony skate crew, 2008. 
4-Wheel Warpony skater Lee Nash tucks a skate deck into his belt. The skate team was founded by award-winning filmmaker Dustinn Craig (White Mountain Apache/Navajo), who got his start making skateboarding videos in Arizona.

Lee Nash (White Mountain Apache) of the 4-Wheel Warpony skate crew, 2008. 4-Wheel Warpony skater Lee Nash tucks a skate deck into his belt. The skate team was founded by award-winning filmmaker Dustinn Craig (White Mountain Apache/Navajo), who got his start making skateboarding videos in Arizona.

Credit: Courtesy Dustinn Craig (White Mountain Apache/Navajo)

Armondo “Mondo” Lerma (Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians), All Nations Skate Jam 2008, Albuquerque, N.M.
Mondo competes in the ages 6-12 division at the All Nations Skate Jam. Mondo, and his brother Augustin (“Augie”), are making their mark in the world of amateur skateboarding competitions. They are backed by several corporate sponsors as well as having support from their tribe, the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians in Palm Springs, Calif.

Armondo “Mondo” Lerma (Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians), All Nations Skate Jam 2008, Albuquerque, N.M. Mondo competes in the ages 6-12 division at the All Nations Skate Jam. Mondo, and his brother Augustin (“Augie”), are making their mark in the world of amateur skateboarding competitions. They are backed by several corporate sponsors as well as having support from their tribe, the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians in Palm Springs, Calif.

Credit: Courtesy Rudy Burciaga

Lerma Family (Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians), Mesa, Ariz., 2009.
Brothers Mondo (left) and Augie (right) are pictured with their biggest fan, sister Precious, on their backyard skate ramp. Augie is a student at the Kids That Rip Skateboard School in Mesa, Ariz., which combines traditional academics with skateboard training.

Lerma Family (Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians), Mesa, Ariz., 2009. Brothers Mondo (left) and Augie (right) are pictured with their biggest fan, sister Precious, on their backyard skate ramp. Augie is a student at the Kids That Rip Skateboard School in Mesa, Ariz., which combines traditional academics with skateboard training.

Credit: Courtesy Augustin Lerma Jr.

Bryant Chapo (Navajo), Minneapolis, Minn., 2007.
Discovered by a local skateboard shop in his hometown of Fort Hall, Idaho, Bryant Chapo’s win at a 2006 Utah skateboarding competition brought him to national attention and his first major sponsor. Chapo trains and skates full-time and makes it a point to participate in as many Native skateboarding competitions as he can. Here he performs a varial heel flip.

Bryant Chapo (Navajo), Minneapolis, Minn., 2007. Discovered by a local skateboard shop in his hometown of Fort Hall, Idaho, Bryant Chapo’s win at a 2006 Utah skateboarding competition brought him to national attention and his first major sponsor. Chapo trains and skates full-time and makes it a point to participate in as many Native skateboarding competitions as he can. Here he performs a varial heel flip.

Credit: Courtesy Brandon Flyg

The 4-Wheel War Pony skate team. From left to right, Armonyo Hume, Jess Michael Smith, Aloysius Henry, Ronnie Altaha and Lee Nash. The team was founded by award-winning filmmaker Dustinn Craig (White Mountain Apache/Navajo), who got his start making skateboarding videos in Arizona.

The 4-Wheel War Pony skate team. From left to right, Armonyo Hume, Jess Michael Smith, Aloysius Henry, Ronnie Altaha and Lee Nash. The team was founded by award-winning filmmaker Dustinn Craig (White Mountain Apache/Navajo), who got his start making skateboarding videos in Arizona.

Credit: Courtesy Dustinn Craig (White Mountain Apache/Navajo)

Jim Murphy (Lenni Lenape ancestry), Edgewood, Md., 1986.
Murphy grew up as “an assimilated Irish-Catholic kid” in New Jersey and later became a professional skateboarder. After reading "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee" he was inspired to reconnect with his Native heritage and founded Wounded Knee Skateboards and Propaganda in 1998 to educate others about American Indian history. Here he performs a “frontside air” at a skate park in Edgewood, Md.

Jim Murphy (Lenni Lenape ancestry), Edgewood, Md., 1986. Murphy grew up as “an assimilated Irish-Catholic kid” in New Jersey and later became a professional skateboarder. After reading "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee" he was inspired to reconnect with his Native heritage and founded Wounded Knee Skateboards and Propaganda in 1998 to educate others about American Indian history. Here he performs a “frontside air” at a skate park in Edgewood, Md.

Credit: Courtesy Jason Oliva, House of Steam.com

Bunky Echo Hawk (Yakama/Pawnee), 2009.
Contemporary artist and activist Bunky Echo Hawk holds three of the skate decks he designed for Native Skates. Native Skates has given many contemporary Native artists an opportunity to distribute their artwork outside the traditional network of galleries and art fairs. Founder Todd Harder believes all people should be able to own art by Native people—even if it comes on the bottom of a skate deck.

Bunky Echo Hawk (Yakama/Pawnee), 2009. Contemporary artist and activist Bunky Echo Hawk holds three of the skate decks he designed for Native Skates. Native Skates has given many contemporary Native artists an opportunity to distribute their artwork outside the traditional network of galleries and art fairs. Founder Todd Harder believes all people should be able to own art by Native people—even if it comes on the bottom of a skate deck.

Credit: Courtesy David Bernie

Tracy Nelson (La Jolla Band of Luiseño Indians), Reseda, Calif., 1977.
Blues musician, former tribal chairman and lifelong skater Tracy Nelson founded Full Blood Skates with his wife Liana Nelson (San Pasqual Band of Mission Indians) in 2007 to give young people in their community an incentive to stay strong, healthy and motivated. Seen here at the age of 12, Nelson executes a flawless “invert” at the Skatercross skate park in Reseda, Calif.

Tracy Nelson (La Jolla Band of Luiseño Indians), Reseda, Calif., 1977. Blues musician, former tribal chairman and lifelong skater Tracy Nelson founded Full Blood Skates with his wife Liana Nelson (San Pasqual Band of Mission Indians) in 2007 to give young people in their community an incentive to stay strong, healthy and motivated. Seen here at the age of 12, Nelson executes a flawless “invert” at the Skatercross skate park in Reseda, Calif.

Credit: Courtesy Nelson Family

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