Ramp It Up: Skateboard Culture in Native America

Style and flow. Courage and creativity. Strength and resilience. Lessons of skate life, lessons of Native life, learned on the streets and on the rez.

Skateboarding combines demanding physical exertion with design, graphic art, filmmaking, and music to produce a unique and dynamic culture.

One of the most popular sports on Indian reservations, skateboarding has inspired American Indian and Native Hawaiian communities to host skateboard competitions and build skate parks to encourage their youth. Native entrepreneurs own skateboard companies and sponsor community- based skate teams. Native artists and filmmakers, inspired by their skating experiences, credit the sport with teaching them a successful work ethic.

These are the indigenous stories of skateboarding. Join us as we celebrate the vibrancy, creativity, and controversy of Native skate culture.

Test your knowledge. Which one of these words means riding a skateboard backwards? Click and see!  

Which one of these words means to skate backwards? Goofy Slam Grind Fakie Totally Clueless Ollie Rocket Air 540 Shuvit


Originally on view at the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian, Ramp It Up reveals the rich underground world of skateboarding, which combines demanding physical exertion with design, graphic art, filmmaking, and music. The exhibition includes 28 objects and 45 images, including rare archival photographs, skate decks (or boards) created by Native American artists, and film footage of these acrobatic, artistic athletes in action. Host venues can create exciting complementary programs, such as skateboarding demonstrations or film screenings, which are sure to draw large young audiences.

Related articles:

National Museum of the American Indian Blog The Washington Post article ESPN Sports  


Exhibition specifications

Contents Text and graphic panels, contemporary and archival photographs, approximately 28 objects

Educational and promotional resources

Participation Fee $10,500
Size Approximately 1,500 square feet
Crates 8
Weight 2573 lbs.
Category History & Culture
Security Moderate

$7,045, Prorated

SITES Contacts

Kathrin Halpern, 202.633.3109 (Content/design)
Minnie Russell, 202.633.3160 (Scheduling)

Tour Through

November 2014


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Tour itinerary

Opening Closing Host Institution Status
04/28/2012- 09/9/2012 San Diego Museum of Man,
San Diego, CA
12/15/2012- 02/10/2013 Sicangu Heritage Center, Mission, SD Booked
03/02/2013- 04/28/2013 Littleton Museum, Littleton, CO Booked
05/18/2013- 07/21/2013 Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center, Mashantucket, CT Booked
08/10/2013- 10/13/2013 Hibulb Cultural Center & Natural History Preserve, Tulalip, WA Booked
11/02/2013- 01/05/2014 Institute of Texan Cultures,
San Antonio, TX
01/25/2014- 06/08/2014 Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History, The University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK Booked
06/28/2014- 08/24/2014 Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library, Topeka, KS Booked
09/13/2014- 11/23/2014 Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum, Clewiston, FL Booked
Tour Extension      
03/16/2015- 5/25/2015 Tamastslikt Cultural Institute, OR Booked


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Related Videos

Produced by our partners at the Smithsonian Channel, these great introductory videos provide a glimps into skate culture in Native America. Visit the Smithsonian Channel for more full-length content.

Skate Nation: From Pipe Dream to Half-Pipe

Bryant Chapo grew up on the Fort Hall Reservation, Idaho, skateboarding for fun, but now he skates full time and is about to go pro.


Skate Nation: Don't Hate, Just Skate

Gabe Marquez never meant to own a skate shop, but when he realized his kids' friends needed a place to go, he started the West Side Skate Shop.



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Press release

Media only: Lindsey Koren (202) 633-3122
Media Website: http://newsdesk.si.edu

Celebrate the Vibrancy of American Indian Skateboarding Culture
in New Smithsonian Traveling Exhibition

Skateboarding is one of the most popular sports on Indian reservations, and has inspired and influenced American Indian and Native Hawaiian communities since the 1960s. A new exhibition from the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, together with the National Museum of the American Indian, celebrates the vibrancy, creativity and history of American Indian skateboarding culture.

“Ramp It Up: Skateboard Culture in Native America” will open April 28, 2012, at the San Diego Museum of Man, a Smithsonian Affiliate in San Diego, and features 20 skate decks, including examples from Native companies and contemporary artists, rare images and video of Native skaters. The exhibition will be on view through Sept. 9, 2012, before continuing on its 12-city national tour. “Ramp It Up” was previously on view at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in New York, as well as at the National Museum of American Indian in Washington, D.C.

Exhibition 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).

“Skate culture is a great lens to learn about both traditional and contemporary Native American culture,” said Betsy Gordon, curator of “Ramp It Up.” “This exhibition not only showcases the Native skater but also the Native elders, parents, government officials and community activists who have encouraged their kids to skate.”

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) and 13-year-old Augustin 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.

SITES has been sharing the wealth of Smithsonian collections and research programs with millions of people outside Washington, D.C., for almost 60 years. SITES connects Americans to their shared cultural heritage through a wide range of exhibitions about art, science and history, which are shown wherever people live, work and play. Exhibition descriptions and tour schedules are available at www.sites.si.edu.

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian is the first national museum dedicated to the preservation, study and exhibition of the life, languages, literature, history and arts of the Native peoples of the Western Hemisphere. Established by an act of Congress in 1989, the museum works in collaboration with Native peoples and communities to protect and foster their cultures by reaffirming traditions and beliefs, encouraging contemporary artistic expression and empowering the Native voice, www.AmericanIndian.si.edu.

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» Exhibition Specifications

» Tour Itinerary

» Exhibition Prospectus

» Related Videos

» Press Release

If you like this exhibition, you may also like:

Roots of Wisdom

IndiVisible: African-Native Lives in the Americas (Archives)

Jim Henson's Fantastic World (Archives)

Native Words, Native Warriors (Archives)


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