When the first of four groups of Bert Bowes students arrived at the Pomeroy Sport Centre on Jan. 31 for their two-hour session with the skateboard group Nations, they were a shy, hesitant group of kids unsure of what they had signed up for.
By the time it was over, there wasn’t a single kid to be found without a smile and who hadn’t gained an appreciation for skateboarding and an understanding of the value of culture and resiliency.
“We didn’t know what to expect, the kids weren’t talking much and said they weren’t even going to skateboard,” said Kristen Tetreault, an Indigenous youth care worker at Bert Bowes. “To see how engaged and happy they were by the end was unreal, and I’m so proud of them. We are always looking for positive mentors to come speak to our youth, and it was an amazing experience.”
The primary goal of Nations was to share with the students the importance of being proud of their Indigenous heritage and culture, as well as what skateboarding can teach them about being resilient in the face of adversity.
“I was expecting a lot of talking, but we got to skateboard lots and really get to know the skateboarders and it was awesome,” said student Sierra Bigcharles. “The message they shared really hits my heart. I’m very proud to be Indigenous and it helped to be encouraged today.”
The majority of the students in each of the four sessions were new to skateboarding. Each got one-on-one time with a member of Nations, and were encouraged and cheered on the same, regardless if they were able to stay on their board going up and down a ramp, or if they landed a kickflip.
After 90 minutes of fun, Nations leader Rose Archie gathered everyone around to share and talk about past experiences as a group. The students were no less engaged with this part of the day.
“We really wanted to share how important it was to be proud of our culture, and pay attention to one another,” said Archie.
“All of us got where we were and overcame tough obstacles through skateboarding, and each of them can do the same no matter what they choose to do.”
By the end of the session, Nations member Joe Buffalo said the kids were better than he was when he first started skateboarding 35 years ago. Buffalo, a residential school survivor, originally turned to hockey as a means to escape the reality he lived in, but it was skateboarding that he fell in love with and taught him to be proud of who he was.
Cole Andrews, who worked with School District 60 to bring Nations to Fort St. John, said he hopes this is just the first step of a larger program connecting Indigenous kids with skateboarding, and to have the Pomeroy Sport Centre used regularly in that capacity. He and others continue to work on project to build skate parks in First Nations communities throughout the region.
Email sports reporter Dillon Giancola at email@example.com.