NAVAJO NATION (KRQE) – In a remote area of the Navajo Nation, there are not a lot of places that kids can go to be kids. Now, a major fundraising effort to build a skate park in the community is picking up steam.
“I know most of the kids who go to school here like to skateboard but there’s not many paved roads or skateboard parks for them to go skateboard,” said Ciera Charley, a seventh-grader who lives in the Navajo Two Grey Hills Chapter, which is about halfway between Shiprock and Gallup.
Right now, if kids want to go to a skatepark, it’d be at least an hour’s drive to Farmington or Gallup. “The nearest skate park I know of is in Farmington. Not many students or people have transportation to drive an hour away,” said Charley.
“It’s a long way to get to those spaces if you have a car,” said Amy Denet Deal, the founder of Orenda Tribe, a Navajo-inspired vintage clothing company.
Denet Deal has been working with kids in Two Grey Hills for several years, and now she is spearheading the fundraising effort to build The Orenda Tribe Diné Skate Garden Project.
“We know from any sport they’re going to be stronger and healthier and definitely with skateboarding it’s more of an individual sport versus a team sport so its something they can do any day, any time, any time of the year,” said Denet Deal.
Denet Deal partnered with several groups, including Wonders Around the World, a non-profit that builds skateparks all over the world, to build a skatepark in Two Grey Hills. Wonders Around the World is scheduled to go to the community this fall. “The kids are beyond excited about it, it’s like they don’t even have to wait until Christmas because this is going to be built in October,” said Denet Deal.
The completed project will be surrounded by a garden, which Denet Deal hopes will turn the skatepark into a place for the entire community. “We do plan to build a garden that is around the skate park so it’s something where aunties, uncles, moms, dads like little ones can go there and hang out once we get everything planted next spring,” said Denet Deal.
Right now, the group is fundraising. They put on a virtual show, featuring singer Jewel, and Tony Hawk. “Don’t underestimate skateboarding. It’s done a lot for a lot of people, not just people who have made it a career like me, but other people who have gone to learn about themselves and life,” said Hawk.
Diné model, skateboarder, and TikTok viral star, Naiomi Glasses, is also helping fundraise. “Skateboarding changed my life by giving me confidence at a very young age. I started skateboarding when I was six and at that time there were hardly any other girl skateboarders it was like a really male-dominated sport. I feel that by skateboarding, it allowed me to be bold and be myself and be true to who I am and that’s what it really helped me with,” said Glasses.
Denet Deal says they’re getting closer to their fundraising goal, and, in the meantime, kids who live in Two Grey Hills are helping plan the park.
“We’re even planning on having some of the middle school kids from Tohaali Community School be on the committees as we have all these meetings where we make it happen because, who knows, maybe in 10-15 years one of those kids is going to architect school or landscape architecture school and be doing this for a living,” said Denet Deal.
Kids in Two Grey Hills, and those who live around it, are excited about the park.
“The pure shock of wow it’s actually here. There’s an actual skate park here and we don’t have to go to town anymore or travel,” said Kiera Charley, a 16-year-old who lives in Two Grey Hills.
Denet Deal says she hopes this project is just the first of many on the Navajo Nation.
“When you start looking at remote areas of Navajo Nation it’s basically whatever is provided at the school but you know those have certain hours. So, we’re really looking at doing these beautiful little satellites of outdoor sport concepts for the kids all out in remote areas. Even if it helps one kid or five kids or 10 kids that’s important,” said Denet Deal.
The group is hoping to raise $100,000. To donate, visit pledge.to/orenda-skate.