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Hopi Teens Create Desert Skatepark

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    Terrill Humeyestewa performs a trick on a skateboard on the Hopi reservation in northeastern Arizona. Terrill and other Hopi youth worked together to create a skate spot that opened this spring. (Paul Molina via AP)
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    The Hopi skate spot (Paul Molina via AP)
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    Francisco Mata, left, Kira Nevayaktewa, Quintin Nahsonhoya, and Felicia Mata help lay a concrete foundation for a skate ramp. (AP/Felicia Fonseca)
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    People work on a concrete pad for a skateboarding ramp. (Brandon Nahsonhoya via AP)
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    A skateboarder tries out a new ramp on the Hopi reservation. (Brandon Nahsonhoya via AP)
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    Hopi youth raised money to build the skate spot. (Brandon Nahsonhoya via AP)
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Basketball courts, parking lots, highway intersections, twisting desert roads—Hopi teens skate anywhere and everywhere. Now an Arizona skatepark reflects the Hopi value of sumi’nangwa: coming together for the greater good.

Skate parks have sprouted across America in recent years, many of them youth-led. Some host competitions like one on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota or the All Nations Skate Jam held in New Mexico.

There’s “really no limitation to where you can skate,” says Quintin Nahsonhoya. Where he lives, it’s “nothing but dirt,” he declares. “I just skate on the sand.”

Without a designated skate spot on their reservation, Hopi teenagers had to set up tricks with old railroad ties and lumber. So a group of Hopi teens began a project to make a place in the desert for skateboarding.

Skate 264 opened in late spring in the Village of Tewa. It’s named after the highway that runs through the 2,500 square-mile Hopi reservation and connects more than a dozen villages.

Project co-leads, including Nahsonhoya, Laela Nevayaktewa, and Jacque Thorpe, form a mix of shy and outspoken personalities. Yet they grew to be comfortable talking with people outside their circle of family and friends.

The youth surveyed residents, who overwhelmingly supported the skatepark idea. They sold beanies, stickers, and shirts to raise money.

Perhaps their biggest hurdle was approval from the Village of Tewa for land to build the skatepark on—no small feat on tribal land.

Nahsonhoya’s parents secured partnerships with a skateboard company that donated a ramp and props, and others who donated concrete. Community members helped with manual labor, feeding the crew, or providing guidance.

Safety was the priority for the teens. Secondary goals included bringing joy to others through skateboarding, staying active, and avoiding bad influences.

“It keeps you from doing nothing with your time,” Thorpe says. “That’s how I see Hopi and skateboarding coming together, filling your days and your time with something positive.”

“This sense of skateboarding being outsider and niche and oppositional and dangerous,” says Betsy Gordon, who studies skateboarding in Native communities. “I think it’s really disappearing.”

The Skate 264 teens insist skateboarding is for everyone. They encourage newbies to find their own pace and create their own style. “No one is too good to fall,” reminds an online Wipe-Out Wednesday feature.

 “I hope this will inspire other youth groups,” Nahsonhoya says. He wants “to make the Hopi community a better place for the future generations of our people.”

Why? Hopi teens saw a need and pursued a worthwhile goal. That’s worth emulating! “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example.” (1 Timothy 4:12)