Skateboarding program empowers and inspires First Nation youth
Nations Skate Youth is a non-profit that helps bring skateboarding to reserves and Indigenous communities.
Launched with the help of professional skater Joe Buffalo, the program hopes to inspire kids to get moving, and find a sense of belonging through the sport, like it did for co-founder Rosie Archie.
"I picked up a board in 1992, it was something I had seen my older sister doing with her friends on the reserve," said Archie.
"I grew up in Canim Lake, so the closest skate park to us was an hour and a half to two hours away. And in the mid-'90s, we would hitchhike."
Now Archie is paying it forward with Nations Skate Youth.
"What we are offering our own communities has not been done, giving the youth something like skateboarding to empower them, to inspire them," said Archie.
"Skateboarding has brought us so many positive opportunities in our lives that it is time to give back to the youth."
When the program visits a community, they start off with the basics of skateboarding, since many of the kids have never even tried the sport.
"I feel if there was a skateboarding park on … every reserve, that would be amazing, in the middle of nowhere, the kids would have something to do," said Archie.
"Nations Skate Youth wants to offer those things to communities, like helping them get a skate park, helping youth."
"Time flies when you're having a lot of fun and you get to see the smiles on their faces."
But Archie says that the program is more than just an introduction to a sport, it's a chance for the kids to open up about their lives.
"You get to have those conversations … listening to the struggles and what [the kids] are going through," said Archie.
"They open up to you, it's amazing, it's almost like being a counselor."
The program has teamed up with sponsors like Vans, Anti-Social Skateboard shop, and The Skate Witches, who provide shoes and skateboards for the kids to keep.
"Something that I'll always remember is I gave this kid a pair of shoes and a skateboard and he asked me, 'why does it feel like Christmas?' And he started crying," said Archie.
"I've been skateboarding a long, long time, and to see any skateboard company given back to an Indigenous person is truly amazing."
Archie hopes the program will expand, and her ultimate dream is to launch a Canadian All Nations Skate Jam, modelled off of the one held annually at the Gathering of Nations Powwow in Albuquerque, New Mexico.