It’s a business venture seven generations in the making.
The culmination of that time and effort – Indigenous artwork displayed on skateboards and vital cultural connections that might not otherwise be made.
South Surrey couple Brenda Knights and Jason Bothe (a.k.a. Renee Renee) started their company, Bentwood Skateboards, in early 2021. They also operate a charity called Indigiskate which runs camps throughout the province.
“For the camps, we hire Indigenous pros who teach the kids to skateboard so they have mentors from our culture that they can look up to,” Knights said.
Knights is a member of the Kwantlen First Nation and also traces her lineage to Musqueam and Choctaw. She is a descendant of Grand Chief Wattlekanium of the Kwantlen people, who met the Simon Fraser expedition and welcomed the first visitors to present-day B.C.
“My daughter and son represent the the seventh generation since Chief Wattlekanium and in my culture we say it takes seven generations for change,” she said.
This inspired 7 Generations Skateboard, which is an organization that counts Knights among its founding board members. They host professional skateboarding events around the province to invest in Indigenous artists, skaters and entertainers.
“There’s these seven laws that I’m taught to live by: health, happiness, humbleness, generations, generosity, forgiveness and understanding. Those are values that we want to share in the skateboarding world,” Knights said.
The first round of boards were designed by Jean Paul Langlois who is a Métis artist based in Vancouver. His triptych painting titled Stinky and Zeke vs the Garbage Bear is displayed across three boards that Bentwood sells on its website.
Plans for more boards are in the works and Knights already has her eyes set on a few more artists she wishes to collaborate with for the next launch, she said.
Bothe grew up skateboarding, but now focuses on hosting sports events and giving back to the community. He runs Autism Skate Days which he started six years ago in an effort to bring together kids on the autism spectrum and their siblings to teach them how to skateboard. Now, the event runs under the SUPA society, which was founded to teach children with autism how to surf.
By melding together Bothe’s skateboard culture with Knights’ Indigenous culture, the two have created safe spaces to promote a healthy lifestyle where Indigenous youth can learn skateboarding skills, Knights said.
“We’re ensuring that we’re hiring and securing Indigenous businesses to help us and just taking part in putting reconciliation into action… It’s not just on the shoulders of non-Indigenous people, Indigenous people as well have to be at the table.”
The couple’s inaugural event, a skateboarding competition called 7 Generations Cup, will be held at Langley Events Centre from June 10 to 12. At the event and at their camps, various Indigenous vendors, Pow Wow dancers, drummers and singers are employed.
A skateable carved canoe will also be used during the competition.
With all of Knights’ and Bothe’s skateboard ventures, the ultimate goal is to one day see an Indigenous person compete in the Olympics for skateboarding.
“Our people are visual learners and it’s just exposing these things to kids and sparking the idea that they can potentially compete at that level,” she said.