A group of Vancouver-based skateboarders is working to introduce Canada's Indigenous youth to the sport they love and the many benefits associated with it - and they're asking for the public's help to do so.
Nations Youth Society launched earlier this year, with the goal of "empowering Indigenous youth to embrace their right to self-determination through the positive impact of skateboarding."
In addition to encouraging the importance of keeping Indigenous culture and traditions alive, the Indigenous-led organization - backed by skateboarders Joe Buffalo (a residential school survivor, actor and pro skater), Rose Archie, Tristin Henry, Dustin Henry and Adam George - is also providing skateboarding lessons to Indigenous youth and working to promote the construction of more skate parks in First Nations communities.
(You might remember a few of these names from the time they organized All Aboard, a two-day celebration of skateboarding culture in Vancouver that took place in November. The event examined the skateboarding's impact on mental health, social awareness and education.)
But with three upcoming trips planned to Indigenous communities in Alberta this summer, Nations decided to launch a GoFundMe campaign in an effort to cover costs like car rentals, gas, per diems for instructors, lodging, and safety equipment for participants. The campaign has already been a massive success, nearly fulfilling its $10,000 goal in a span of just 15 hours.
“The purpose of Nations is to inspire and empower youth to follow in their dreams. Skateboarding has done so much for us, and we want to show the kids what’s possible," Archie told V.I.A.'s sister publication Alaska Highway News in January, prior to a Nations trip to Fort St. John.
“My sister committed suicide last February, and that got me thinking of reaching out to communities and doing more for our people. It’s important that kids grow up to be proud of their culture and who they are,” she said at the time.
Archie, who grew up near Canim Lake, B.C., recalled that she would have to hitchhike up to two hours a day in order to get to the nearest skate park. One reason why she and the other Nations volunteers are working to see more skate parks built near First Nations communities - and to make skateboarding more accessible to Indigenous youth - is to ensure that the next generation of First Nations skateboarders can avoid experiencing the same dangers Archie faced.
Ahead of their upcoming trips, Nations is also on the lookout for new or used boards, trucks and wheels.
- With files from Dillon Giancola / Alaska Highway News