4-Wheel Warpony skateboarders, 2008 - From left to right, White Mountain Apache skaters Armonyo Hume, Jess Michael Smith, Aloysius Henry, Ronnie Altaha and Lee Nash. The skate team was founded by award-winning filmmaker Dustinn Craig (White Mountain Apache/Navajo), who got his start making skateboarding videos in Arizona.

San Diego's Museum of Man to Open Ramp It Up: Skateboard Culture in Native America


The San Diego Museum of Man (SDMoM) is the first location for the fantastic exhibit Ramp it Up: Skateboard Culture in Native America's 12-city national tour.  The SDMoM is hosting the exhibit on its first trip outside of the Smithsonian Institution.  On Saturday, April 28, the public is invited to this inspiring event.

The day will include a tour led by exhibition curator Elizabeth Gordon and professional skateboarding demonstrations on the half pipe mini skate ramp, which has been designed and built by Spohn Ranch Skateparks. Opening festivities are included in the price of regular admission.  For those who can't make it to the opening event, fret not—the exhibit will be at the SDMoM until September 9.

Contemporary artist and activist Bunky Ehco-Hawk (Yakama/Pawnee) holds three of the decks he designed for Native Skates.

The new exhibition features brilliant examples of skate decks from Native companies and contemporary artists, and includes rare images and video of Native skaters. Big time visual artists will have their work displayed, including Bunky Echo-Hawk (Yakama/Pawnee), Joe Yazzie (Navajo), Traci Rabbit (Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma), and Dustinn Craig (White Mountain Apache/Navajo).

One of those rare images is the 1973 home-movie footage of Zephyr surf team members Ricky and Jimmy Tavarez (Gabrielino-Tongva), and photographs of other iconic skateboard athletes. "The Lerma brothers are featured in the Smithsonian exhibition, along with other local tribes, including the La Jolla Band of Luiseño Indians, the Pala Band of Mission Indians, and Gabrielino-Tongva," an exhibit press release states.

Ramp It Up also serves as something of a history lesson in the culture of skateboarding, from "its origins in Native Hawaiian communities, to the Southern California surf culture, to the rest of the United States and beyond."

“Skate culture is a great lens to learn about both traditional and contemporary Native American culture,” said Elizabeth Gordon, curator of Ramp It Up. “This exhibition focuses on the Native skater as well as the Native elders, parents, government officials, and community activists who have encouraged their kids to skate.”

One reason why you'll want to attend the opening day if you can is to watch some professional skateboarders in action. Brothers Augustin Lerma III (Augie) and Armando Lerma (Mando) from the local Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians will be doing their business on the half pipe mini-ramp, which will be built on SDMoM’s South Balcony. For the skateboarders out there, the ramp will be open at selected times throughout the 4-month run of the exhibit.

Bryant Chapo (Navajo), Minneapolis, Minn., 2007

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