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Museum Spotlights Native American Skateboarders

By Test Reporter | April 19, 2010 7:30am | Updated on April 19, 2010 6:44am

By Tara Kyle

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

FINANCIAL DISTRICT — Next weekend in New Mexico, Native Americans from around the country will participate in the All Nations Skate Jam national championships. But right now in New York, one museum is highlighting the particular role the sport plays in American Indian culture.

“What many people don’t know about skateboard culture is that it actually is very indigenous,” said Quinn Bradley, spokesperson for the National Museum of the American Indian in the Financial District, where the exhibit is running through June 27. “It has its routes in Hawaiian surf culture.”

On reservations around the country, skateboarding is more popular than Little League, Bradley said. In addition to instilling lessons about focus and work ethic, the sport also provides young Native Americans an outlet for artistic expression through the designs featured on boards and ramps.

Skateboarders from the White Mountain Apache tribe are among those featured at the exhibit.
Skateboarders from the White Mountain Apache tribe are among those featured at the exhibit.
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Photo by Dustinn Craig/Courtesy of the National Museum of the American Indian

New York City is home to about 90,000 Native Americans, Bradley explained, the largest number for any urban area in the United States.

The exhibit includes the work of New Yorker and professional skateboarder Jim Murphy, who provides mentoring and sponsorship for young Native Americans through his company, Wounded Knee Skateboards. One board design by Wounded Knee at the exhibit depicts the loss of Native American lands from 1491 to 1990.

On his way to the All Nations Skate Jam, held April 24 and 25 in Albuquerque, N.M., Murphy will visit students at the Native American Charter School. He believes the exhibit can help counteract stereotypes about Native Americans.

“I think it gives them a sense of freedom and independence that organized sports don’t,” Murphy said. “You don’t need a team, nobody dictates how you should skate. It’s the freedom of expression.”