With help from Pearl Jam, native American youth skate for their lives at ONE Gathering
Walt Pourier is the visionary behind the "ONE Gathering -- Skate for Life" event, which will ramp up Saturday at the Denver Skatepark. Drawing hundreds of young Native Americans from across Colorado and beyond, the Gathering will expose them to positive, community-building activities that celebrate heritage while building hope for the future.
Pourier knows firsthand how much that hope is needed: Though his Denver-based Stronghold Society, he works with youth on the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota, where alcohol and drug abuse contribute to a tragically high suicide rate.Pourier, a storyteller, graphic designer and member of the Lakota tribe, recently opened the first of three state-of-the-art skate parks in Pine Ridge, with help from friends including Pearl Jam's Jeff Ament.
Now in its third year, the Gathering will feature skate competitions, vendors and music, including a set from The Bunny Gang, the Denver-based side project led by Flogging Molly's Nathan Maxwell. We asked Pourier to tell us a little bit about the event, which has become a summertime rite of passage for an underserved group of young people.
Westword: What does skateboarding have to do with life -- in your vision?
Walt Pourier: "Skateboarding Saves Lives" is a quote I hear again and again from all the skate legends who support our Stronghold Society Live Life Call to Action Campaigns. Our goal is to instill a belief system in this current generation that through these creative movements of skateboarding, music, art and design, film, photography, writing, spoken word, etc., they can live and express life at its grandest.
Why is it important for Native American youth to have the chance to come together once a year?
Skaters get ready to roll at the 2011 ONE Gathering.
The Gathering is a skateboarding competition created to unite the youth of the Denver community with the Native American youth of Colorado and surrounding states. It is a means of outreach to educate local communities of the social and health challenges Native American youth face today -- to give them a place to gather and skate and listen to music from some awesome bands and just have fun. The competition will take place at the Denver Skatepark, located near the South Platte River, an historical gathering place for many Native American Tribes.
Youth are coming from across Colorado and other states. Who will be there?
We usually get a lot of kids from New Mexico, including a group called the Westside Boys. They wear shirts that say "Don't Hate Just Skate." We also have youth from Pine Ridge South Dakota, Lakota Country, Ute Mountain Ute Country here in Colorado, Oklahoma, and a group from Portland, Oregon this year. And, of course, our local skate-culture scene looks forwards to this event every year. So many help us to run it. It's a beautiful thing.