Surfing Waves of Cement
“PALA” deck design by the PalaBand of Mission Indians

Native-owned skateboarding companies have created distinct brands. Some feature traditional iconography. Others are notable for whom they were created.

“PALA” deck design by the PalaBand of Mission Indians, 2007; silk-screened image on 7-ply maple wood board; about 8” x 34”. 27/556.

Photo by NMAI Staff

Native-owned skateboarding companies have created distinct brands. Some feature traditional iconography. Others are notable for whom they were created.

“PALA” deck design by the PalaBand of Mission Indians, 2007; silk-screened image on 7-ply maple wood board; about 8” x 34”. 27/556.

Photo by NMAI Staff

Pink and yellow “Apache Mountain Spirit Dancer” skateboard designed by Joe Yazzie

“Apache Mountain Spirit Dancer” by Joe Yazzie (Diné) for Native Skates, 2008; silk-screened image on 7-ply maple wood board; about 8” x 34”. 27/553

Photo by NMAI Staff

“Apache Mountain Spirit Dancer” by Joe Yazzie (Diné) for Native Skates, 2008; silk-screened image on 7-ply maple wood board; about 8” x 34”. 27/553

Photo by NMAI Staff

White “Spirit Feather” design by Traci Rabbit on a black skateboard.

“Spirit Feather” by Traci Rabbit (Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma) for Native Skates, 2008; silk-screened image on 7-ply maple wood board; about 8” x 34”. 27/554

Photo by NMAI Staff

“Spirit Feather” by Traci Rabbit (Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma) for Native Skates, 2008; silk-screened image on 7-ply maple wood board; about 8” x 34”. 27/554

Photo by NMAI Staff

Red, yellow, black and white “Medicine Wheel” design by David Shananaquet

“Medicine Wheel” by David Shananaquet (Odawa/Little TraverseBay Band, Michigan) for Native Skates, 2004; silk-screened image on 7-ply maple wood board; about 8” x 34”. 27/552

Photo by NMAI Staff

“Medicine Wheel” by David Shananaquet (Odawa/Little TraverseBay Band, Michigan) for Native Skates, 2004; silk-screened image on 7-ply maple wood board; about 8” x 34”. 27/552

Photo by NMAI Staff

Autographed blue Chedder skateboard with skateboarder image on one end.

Autographed Chedder model, named after skater Bryant “Chedder” Chapo (Diné), for Goodwood Skateboards, 2008; silk-screened image on 7-ply maple wood board; about 8” x 34”. 27/0548

Photo by NMAI Staff

Autographed Chedder model, named after skater Bryant “Chedder” Chapo (Diné), for Goodwood Skateboards, 2008; silk-screened image on 7-ply maple wood board; about 8” x 34”. 27/0548

Photo by NMAI Staff

“4-Wheel” design of a man's head in center by Dustinn Craig on white skateboard.

“4-Wheel” by Dustinn Craig (White Mountain Apache) for 4-WheelWarpony, 2007; silk-screened image on 7-ply maple wood board; about 8” x 34”. 27/0551

Photo by NMAI Staff

“4-Wheel” by Dustinn Craig (White Mountain Apache) for 4-WheelWarpony, 2007; silk-screened image on 7-ply maple wood board; about 8” x 34”. 27/0551

Photo by NMAI Staff

“Green Logo” design by Chris Nieto, with a chief headdress at each end, on black skateboard.

“Green Logo” by Chris Nieto, Pala Band Luiseño (AguaCaliente)/Kupangaxwichem(Kupa/Cupeño) for Remnant Skateboards, 2009; silk-screened image on 7-ply maple wood board; about 8” x 34”. 27/0549

Photo by NMAI Staff

“Green Logo” by Chris Nieto, Pala Band Luiseño (AguaCaliente)/Kupangaxwichem(Kupa/Cupeño) for Remnant Skateboards, 2009; silk-screened image on 7-ply maple wood board; about 8” x 34”. 27/0549

Photo by NMAI Staff

“Legacy” design of man with skull head by Bunky Echo-Hawk on a skateboard.

“Legacy” by Bunky Echo-Hawk,Yakama (Yakima)/Chaticks SiChaticks (Pawnee) for Native Skates, 2007; silk-screened image on 7-ply maple wood board; about 8” x 34”. 27/555

Photo by NMAI Staff

“Legacy” by Bunky Echo-Hawk,Yakama (Yakima)/Chaticks SiChaticks (Pawnee) for Native Skates, 2007; silk-screened image on 7-ply maple wood board; about 8” x 34”. 27/555

Photo by NMAI Staff

Skateboarding is one of the most popular activities on American Indian reservations, many of which now have state-of-the-art skateparks. The enthusiasm for skateboarding I witnessed in Indian Country inspired me to curate “Ramp It Up: Skateboard Culture in Native America,” an exhibition at the National Museum of the American Indian in 2009 that then toured 10 other U.S. venues from 2012 to 2015. That exhibition catalyzed Smithsonian museums to augment their collections with skateboard-related objects. Ten decks (boards) of skateboards displayed in “Ramp It Up” are now part of NMAI’s collection. The National Museum of American History (NMAH) has amassed more than 600 skateboard-related items.

I co-edited “Four Wheels and a Board: The Smithsonian History of Skateboarding” with NMAH’s Curator of Sports Jane Rogers to emphasizes the sport’s Indigenous beginnings and to tell how American skateboarding culture has influenced graphic art, film, music, fashion, education, technology and social justice movements. In the book are many of the decks in NMAI’s collection, which were created by Native-owned companies and feature designs by Native artists. It also shows a portrait of Hawaii’s Queen Emma (Kalanikaumakaʻamano Kaleleonālani Naʻea Rooke), who inspired a 19th-century surf “mele” (chant), and the surfboard that Native Hawaiian surfer Duke Paoa Kahinu Mokoe Hulikohola Kahanamoku shaped in 1928. Skateboarding has not only deep Indigenous roots but also a vibrant Native culture that will endure.