Vancouver skateboarder Joe Buffalo wants to inspire a new generation of Indigenous skateboarders.
“That’s been like a dream of mine because I never had that growing up,” Buffalo told CBC’s the Early Edition. “I had to figure things out on my own. I just want to be the person that I always wanted.”
That’s a message he’ll deliver this weekend at All Aboard organized by the Vancouver Skateboard Coalition and Granville Island. The event will offer two days of skateboarding at a new indoor mini ramp, free lessons and other activities aimed at bringing Vancouver skateboarders together.
On Saturday evening, Buffalo will be part of a panel discussion called Skateboarding With Intent to Change, which will look at skateboarding’s impact on education, mental health and social awareness.
Buffalo is a member of the Samson Cree Nation and grew up in Maskwacis, Alberta. As a child, he spent five years at one of Canada’s last residential schools, an experience he describes as “really dark.”
He left the school at 14 and moved to Ottawa where he started getting skateboard sponsorships. Earlier this year, Buffalo went pro with Colonialism Skateboards, a Saskatchewan-based company that uses skateboard art to teach about the history and legacy of colonization.
Everett Tetz, manager of community outreach for New Line Skateparks, helped organize Saturday evening’s panel. He said there’s a global movement of people using skateboarding for positive change with international events.
Tetz said the accessibility of skateboarding makes it a good way to engage with young people.
“We know there’s a lot of research behind exercise, physical activity in the brain and the connection to mental health,” he said. “And marginalized communities are coming together and empowering each other to create some of these positive changes.”
The panel also includes a social worker who is working in a clinical setting using skateboarding to heal the brain from childhood trauma, as well as speakers on gender and LGBTQ inclusion.
Tetz describes Buffalo as a “legend.”
“If you’ve skateboarded in Canada you know Joe, because you saw him skate at a park coming up and he’s just always been one of the most powerful, stylish skateboarders in Canada,” he said.
For Buffalo, Saturday’s event is a way to educate people about Canada’s history and promote skateboarding as a positive outlet for young people.
“It teaches you so much about just life in general. Persistence and perseverance. And that’s the vibe I like about it. There’s no wrong way of doing it. It’s just beautiful.”
“I just want to show the kids that it you can make the right choices, that there’s hope,” he said.