Indigenous

New skate park attracts youth in Roseau River Anishinaabe First Nation

The youth of Roseau River Anishinaabe First Nation have a new place to kickflip and grind now that a skate park has opened in the community.

Other recreation plans include a basketball court, baseball diamond and splash pad

Chanel Higheagle (middle) has been learning how to skate for a couple of months. She said that youth have been out skating everyday and sees the skatepark as a healthy outlet for the community. (Kevin Nepitabo/CBC)

The youth of Roseau River Anishinaabe First Nation have a new place to kickflip and grind now that a skate park has opened in the community.

"I feel like this skate park can bring a lot of the community together," said Chanel Higheagle.

"I've already seen the kids — they've been encouraging each other to do more tricks. They've been helping each other up when they fall. So I hope they continue to do that."

Higheagle, a Grade 12 student in the community 83 kilometres south of Winnipeg, recently started a summer recreation position with the Manitoba First Nations Police Service. 

Her focus will be on crime prevention in Roseau River and she said the 273 Skatepark has already become a safe gathering spot for youth since it had its grand opening July 2.

The grand opening for The 273 Skatepark was on July 2nd. The First Nation invited Indigenous skaters to perform and gave away free skateboards to its community members. (Lenard Monkman/CBC)

"The hope is just getting the kids into something they can be passionate towards, rather than leaning towards substance abuse," she said. 

Higheagle began skateboardng a few months ago and has been learning some tricks from her younger sister. 

The new park has become an attraction for people from neighbouring communities, which she said is "a little bit strange."

"We're not really used to that, just because we haven't had so much things here that people want to see," she said.

"But it's awesome to see people come out."

Graham Constant is from Opaskawayak Cree Nation and has been skating for over 20 years. He visited the park and said The 273 Skatepark is one of the best in Manitoba. (Lenard Monkman/CBC)

Alex Hartin, who lives and works at the community's Ginew Wellness Centre, will be teaming up with Higheagle to offer skateboarding etiquette lessons and other events for youth this summer. 

He grew up skateboarding and recently jumped back on the board after a 10-year break from the sport.

"I just recently picked it back up, like as soon as the skatepark opened," said Hartin.

He said he wishes the community had had a skate park when he was younger and is excited to see what kind of skateboarders will come from Roseau River in the future.

He said he's a strong believer in sports helping keep youth away from negative lifestyles, and is glad there's now a skate park for youth who aren't into organized sports like hockey or baseball.

The 273 Skatepark was a goal for Roseau River Chief Craig Alexander in 2015. When the First Nation had surplus money left over from their band's annual budget, the chief and council decided to use it on a skate park. He said the skate park cost $380,000.

"It was something that I wanted as a chief, for our youth, because I see skate parks as a place for recreation and …  a place for our kids to encourage each other to learn new skills," Alexander said.

Alexander said the community is focused on creating recreation infrastructure, and those plans include a recently finished basketball court, as well as a baseball diamond and splash pad which are currently being built.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lenard Monkman is Anishinaabe from Lake Manitoba First Nation, Treaty 2 territory. He has been an associate producer with CBC Indigenous since 2016. Follow him on Twitter: @Lenardmonkman1

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