Members of the 4 Wheel Warpony skate team (White Mountain Apache). Photo courtesy of Dustinn Craig (White Mountain Apache/Navajo), 2008.
National Museum of the American Indian
“Ramp It Up: Skateboard Culture in Native America” Opens at the National
Museum of the American Indian
The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian will open “Ramp It Up:
Skateboard Culture in Native America” Friday, June 12, in the Sealaska Gallery. One of the most
popular sports on Indian reservations, skateboarding has inspired and influenced American Indian and
Native Hawaiian communities since the 1960s. The exhibition celebrates the vibrancy, creativity and
controversy of American Indian skate culture and will be on view through Sept. 13.
The exhibition includes 28 objects and 45 images, including rare archival photographs, film of
Native skaters and skate decks from Native companies and contemporary artists. Highlights include a
never-before-seen 1969 photograph taken by skateboarding icon, Craig 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 museum is eager to show how Indian Country has embraced and changed skateboard
culture in America. The exhibition honors tribal communities’ efforts to connect with their young
people through a positive activity like skateboarding,” said Kevin Gover (Pawnee/Comanche) director
of the National Museum of the American Indian. “It is a vibrant visual documentation of an emerging
culture unique to Native American youth.”
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 20-year-old Bryant Chapo (Navajo) and
10-year-old Augustin and 7-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 techniques 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.
So how cool is this! Not only a first for American Indian skate culture but a first for skate culture in general being recognized by The Smithsonian. Jim Murphy will be a big part of this due to his years of activities with American Indians and his Wounded Knee skate company. In addition who do the major museums call when they need a “rare archival photograph” of Jim Murphy for a world class exhibit? Well they call the ultimate online skate Museum…The House of Steam! That’s right folks (thanks Jim & Betsey!) we have contributed to the 45 images that comprise the exhibit…A fine hour for the THOS community, a fine hour indeed. Whether or not I will be donning a Tux and attending the shindig in July remains to be seen but if anyone in the D.C. area does head out to see the exhibit please email me some pictures. Hopefully they found a great place to Honor Team Steam member Jim Murphy with this gem….
proud to be involved,
Jim Murphy 1986 Edgewood
Photo by Jason Oliva