Native heritage source of strength for world-class athlete

Carol Berry, Today correspondent

ASPEN, Colo. – The glistening slopes of this upscale ski community hosted recent Winter X-Games events, one of which yielded gold for internationally acclaimed freestyle skier Simon Dumont, who won the big air contest.

Dumont, 22, who is of Passamaquoddy heritage, said all Native youth have what it takes to succeed.

“I’d tell them, ‘be strong – don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something. Do whatever you need to be successful. You have all the tools you need.’”

Dumont discussed his Native background and skiing in general by phone Jan. 29 in a brief interval between a day-long visit with an injured friend and preparations to leave for filming in British Columbia.

In his youth, Dumont said his family traveled across Maine from his hometown, the mountain community of Bethel, to Passamaquoddy tribal lands in the northern part of the state for Indian Day Celebrations, “which were a lot of fun for young guys like me.”

His mother, Barbara Bassett Dumont, Passamaquoddy, gets the word out in the community when he is on television or in competition and maintains ties in other ways because he still has relatives in the tribal area.

Photo Courtesy Red Bull

Simon Dumont, a Native freeskier, took gold in the big air competition at the Winter X Games this past January in Aspen, Colo. Dumont, 22, has medaled each year since 2004 in national and international events.

Dumont said he feels a tie to his Native heritage because of empathy he feels with the “history of oppression,” but it has affected him in other ways as well.

“I’ve been a little stronger and more dedicated and determined to be successful in doing this, not only for myself but for other people. I’m trying to show others that we’re a strong people.”

He would tell Native youth and others that freeskiing requires a lot of training, as well as agility, air sense, balance and other skills because “one little thing can be a disaster,” as he learned in a spectacular, 100-foot fall at age 18.

As another “lesson” in perseverance, he recalled being back on skis in about a month after the fall because “that’s just what you do.”

Although he took first place in the Winter X Games big air competition, he said he hoped for a first in the half pipe category and ultimately would probably attain it because, “I’m an overachiever.”

Dumont passed up the competition to be with his injured friend, his manager said. Riley Poor, a mentor and director of an upcoming documentary with Dumont, was undergoing rehabilitation in Colorado after an injury in Vermont several weeks ago.

The next stop for Dumont is northern British Columbia, where he is filming a documentary from a young person’s perspective. “It’s sort of action sports through my eyes.”

The film, “Transitions,” is scheduled for release next fall and is a two-year documentary, he said.

The Native athlete has traveled far and wide, medaling in Sweden, Switzerland, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Canada and all over the United States since 2004.

He began skiing at age 3, and on April 11, 2008 set the world quarter pipe height record at Sunday River ski resort near his home in Maine, achieving 35.5 feet out of a 38-foot quarter pipe.

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