A non-profit organization in Whistler, B.C., is holding an online auction featuring custom skateboards with handcrafted Indigenous designs to help boost year-round sporting opportunities for Indigenous youth.
Ebba Knutsson, fundraising co-ordinator for the Indigenous Life Sport Academy (ILSA), says the money raised will, in part, go toward donating skateboards to youth in various communities in B.C.
The communities will be chosen by the artists who have donated their work.
"Sport is really a way that we can help kids feel good, fill their confidence ... and in turn empower them," Knutsson said, adding that sports are healthy outlets for helping to heal intergenerational trauma.
Knutsson said the organization sent blank skateboards to a number of Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists across Canada, and the ones that have returned are "just stunning."
Cory Douglas, a Squamish Nation artist who's been heavily involved with ILSA, said his skateboard features a sandblasted two-headed serpent, based on one of the nation's legends.
Douglas said he felt compelled to be part of a project helping youth be more involved in sports, considering he didn't have the same opportunities growing up due to the costs of sporting equipment.
ILSA executive director Court (Siginaak) Larabee said other board artwork includes traditional Indigenous drawings and a skateboard woven in cedar — a type of traditional artform he said has recently been brought back "from almost extinction."
Larabee said the idea for the auction came from the positive feedback the organization has had with other fundraisers that involved creating custom skateboards.
He said projects like this, which focus on Indigenous community and healing, are especially important right now, given how Indigenous people have been uniquely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and how fresh wounds have been opened with the discovery of the remains of Indigenous children at the site of a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C.
"These communities need success stories and hope," he said. "Our programming is so important to the youth."
The auction is scheduled to begin online June 11 and will wrap up June 21.
The money raised from items made by non-Indigenous artists will go toward the organization's foster care skateboard services, while funds raised from donated non-skateboard items will go toward helping the organization's administration costs.
The skateboards are currently on display at the Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre in Whistler.