By Michael Meuers, Special to the Pioneer
RED LAKE — Hundreds of people gathered Sept. 15 for the grand opening of the new Red Lake Skate Park.
The grand opening had been postponed from the originally scheduled date of Aug. 29, due to the unexpected death of Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Chairman Stanley Crooks. The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community had played a major role in the development of the skate park by providing funds through its grants programs.
The groundbreaking took place in April on the front lawn near Red Lake High School. The new park — as well as two new basketball courts — was built during the summer as part of an initiative to engage the community’s youth in activities that promote healthy lifestyles.
The 7,000-square-foot park and the basketball courts were built as part of a grant from the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community. The guest of honor was Charlie Vig, newly installed chairman of the Shakopee tribe Crooks’ death. Vig had been the tribe’s vice-chairman.
About 4 p.m., half or more of the crowd climbed the small hill to the lip of the skate bowl, where spiritual elder Larry Stillday offered a blessing, followed by a drum song.
“This park is for our kids,” said Red Lake Chairman Floyd Jourdain Jr. “We are committed to develop positive activities for our youth to do around the rez besides basketball. The Tribal Council will continue to encourage youth to participate in arts and crafts, as well as sports and other activities.”
Jourdain thanked the school district, which donated the land for the skate park.
“The school district has let the kids skate in the parking lot for a few years, when others had chased the skaters off, and we thank them for that,” he said. “Now they are giving us this land to use, in this great visible spot near the highway, we greatly appreciate that.”
“We like what you are doing for your kids,” said Vig. “Once we saw this plan for a skate park, I told Chairman Crooks that we’ve got to do something like this. In fact, I like a lot of the leadership programs you are taking part in here at Red Lake, I want to learn more about it, and set up a youth council at Shakopee like Red Lake has. We hope to learn that from you.”
Vig was presented with a gift of a Chairman Crooks memorial skateboard with the Red Lake and Shakopee tribal logos featured prominently. Strong then gave Vig a watercolor painting by Patrick Desjarlait depicting a Red Lake fisherman in his distinctive style. Shakopee had provided a low-interest loan to re-start the Red lake fisheries after a lengthy moratorium.
Post-dedication activities included a skateboard demonstration by Apache Skateboards and pro riders from Familia Skateshop.
Four Years in the Making
In June 2008, Red Lake Tribal Administrator Lea Perkins was working toward getting a skateboard park for Red Lake and Ponemah. In order to promote interest in that idea, Perkins arranged for the APACHE Skateboards Team to visit Red Lake for a demonstration that summer.
“It was kind of a kick-off event,” said Perkins, “we hoped to have a park sooner, but now it is a reality.”
Apache Skateboards is a professional American Indian skateboard team that originates from the San Carlos Apache reservation in Arizona, in addition to being a manufacturer of skateboards and equipment.
“The skate team is much more than trick demonstrations. They promote healthy lifestyles, creative goal setting, education, and positive attitudes towards being native through skating,” Perkins said.
“There is much more to skateboarding than what might meet the eye,” said Douglas Miles, San Carlos Apache and owner of Apache Skateboards. “Skateboarding is non-competitive; it is a person versus themselves; it requires problem solving and use of space.”
“Our Economic Development and Planning team conducted meetings with local skateboarders,” said Economic Development and Planning Director Sam Strong , who was master of ceremonies for the event. “We took a survey and came up with some good feedback. The overall consensus was to build a street/plaza style park, with one or two bowl-like elements.”
The planning team then contacted Miles, whom they consulted with regarding the concepts identified and a planning process. Miles’ team then provided concept drawings and design.