Skateboarding is one of the most popular sports on Indian reservations, inspiring and influencing American Indian and Native Hawaiian communities since the 1960s. “Ramp It Up,” sponsored by Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores, features 20 skate decks, including examples from Native companies and contemporary artists, rare images and video of Native skaters. Highlights include a never-before-exhibited 1969 image taken by skateboarding icon C.R. Stecyk III of a skate deck depicting traditional Native imagery and 1973 home-movie footage of Zephyr surf team members Ricky and Jimmy Tavarez (Gabrielino-Tongva).
The exhibition features the work of visual artists Bunky Echo-Hawk (Yakama/Pawnee), Joe Yazzie (Navajo), Traci Rabbit (Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma) and Dustinn Craig (White Mountain Apache/Navajo) and highlights young Native skaters such as 22-year-old Bryant Chapo (Navajo), 13-year-old Augustin Lerma and 10-year-old Armondo Lerma (Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians).
As skateboarding continues to rise in popularity in Indian Country, Native skaters and entrepreneurs have combined core lessons learned from the sport — strength, balance and tenacity — with traditional tribal iconography and contemporary art to engage Native youth in their history and culture. “Ramp It Up” examines the role of indigenous peoples in skateboarding culture, its roots in ancient Hawaiian surfing and the visionary achievements of contemporary Native skaters. Skateboarding combines demanding physical exertion, design, graphic art, filmmaking and music to produce a unique and dynamic culture. “Ramp It Up” illustrates how indigenous people and tribal communities have used skateboarding to express themselves and educate their youth.