Saskatchewan skateboard company teaches riders about colonial history
Dario Balca, CTVNews.ca
Published Saturday, August 22, 2015 10:34PM EDT
A Saskatchewan man is using his passion for skateboarding to teach others about Canada’s history of colonialism and its effect on Aboriginal Peoples.
Michael Langan, a long-time skateboarder from the Cote First Nation, has started Colonialism Board Co., a company that aims to educate Canadians about the country’s colonial past by manufacturing and selling skateboards with historical documents printed on them.
Langan was inspired to start the company by the story of Prairie Big Head, a native man who, in 1892, was granted permission by a government agent to leave his Saskatchewan reserve to sell livestock in Calgary. If he did not return by sunset, or if he sold more than his allotment of 10 chickens, he faced three months of imprisonment or a $500 fine.
It's unclear what happened to Prairie Big Head that day, but for Langan, the story serves as example of the kind of oppression First Nations faced during Canada’s early history.
“It’s really sad, but at the time I’m trying to turn a negative into a positive—to just educate people,” Langan said. “A lot of people don’t understand the document or the history behind it and that’s why I wanted to make that the graphic on the board.”
Each skateboard the company sells features a copy of Prairie Big Head’s pass printed onto it. The skateboards also come with a pamphlet teaching about indigenous history in the province.
While skateboarding and colonial history might seem like an unusual pairing, one expert said the two have a surprising number of things in common.
“On some level they’re similar…in terms of access to space and being policed (on) where they can go and where they can’t go,” said Adam Gaudry, an indigenous studies professor at the University of Saskatoon.
Langan’s skateboards are being sold across Canada and are gaining popularity.
“There’s lots of young people involved with skateboarding and they may not be getting these ideas or knowledge anywhere else, so if they can go to the skate shop…and learn something about that, that’s great,” said Dan Watson, the manager of Ninetimes, a Saskatoon skateboard shop that is almost sold out of Langan’s boards.
So far, Langan has sold 25 skateboards—about half of his original stock. But he said he’s more interested in spreading indigenous history than sales.
“We all grew together in Canada and it’s all of our shared history,” Langan said. “It’s our culture.”
With files from CTV Regina