Skateboarding becomes an anchor for Diné skater
Competitive skateboarder Cecely Todacheenie is healing from a physical injury, but that doesn’t stop her from advocating the importance of mental health.
Todacheenie learned to skateboard over 16 years ago in her hometown, Smith Lake, New Mexico.
At the time, skateboarding was a pastime she would do with her younger brothers for fun. But after experiencing a traumatic event in her life, skateboarding became her anchor in life.
“It helped me get out of that mental mindset of going through something traumatic,” Todacheenie said. “I was able to put my focus into skateboarding and exercising.”
Todacheenie’s focus on skateboarding has allowed her to give back to the community and experience things in her life she thought not possible.
She was part of a group that helped build a skate park in Smith Lake, in 2009. The skate park was taken down in late 2010.
Her skills caught the eye of skateboarding organizations and she soon became a sponsored skateboarder. Her sponsors have provided Todacheenie the ability to travel to different parts of the U.S. for skateboard competitions.
“The way skateboarding helps my mindset, it helps me focus on what I’m doing, instead of having bad thoughts in my head,” she said, “thinking about things I shouldn’t be thinking of – stressful things that don’t need to be thought about at the moment.
“So skateboarding helps me get into the actual reality and put my actions to use,” Todacheenie said.
Sponsorships, a skate shop
Some of her sponsors are Fun Skateboard Company, based in Australia; Spitfire Wheels, based in San Francisco; and Lakai Footwear based in Los Angeles.
“Being a Navajo skateboarder, I never knew the possibilities of what skateboarding could provide,” Todacheenie said. “Like being able to be sponsored, traveling to skateboard competitions, to being a advocate for skate parks.
“I’m making a change for the community. I’m just glad I am able to make a difference through skateboarding,” she said.
Having previous experience developing the skate park in Smith Lake, Todacheenie was a voice that helped create the plans for the Gallup Skate Park, which opened in the summer of 2018.
Before the skate park opened, Todacheenie and her husband, Jeremy Todacheenie, opened a skate shop – Enchantment Skate Shop – on the east side of the Gallup Cultural Center on June 8, 2018.
“One of the main reasons we (her husband) started the skate shop was to bring something that we never had to the Gallup community and the surrounding areas,” she said. ”Enchantment Skate Shop offers the community guidance with skateboarding, guidance to knowledge and provide a safe community for skateboarders.’
The shop provides a safe community for skateboarders and has a skate team that it sponsors. The team is comprised of children, teens and adults who want to improve skateboard skills and are seen at the Gallup Skate Park daily.
“The shop has about 10 riders that we sponsor,” Todacheenie said. “We help them by supplying skateboards, bearings, wheels, and trucks. They are in mid(dle) school, high school, and adults,” she said.
“When customers shop here,” she said, “it gives us the opportunity to give back to our riders and support other skaters who reach out to us for help.”
Skate Park Jam
Moving forward, Cecely and her husband have plans to put up a skating event called “International Skate Shop Day,” hosting the annual Gallup Skate Park Jam on Feb. 19.
They plan to work with other skateboard organizations and support other skateboarders.
“Being a part of Enchantment Skate Shop and the skate community, it would be great to sponsor events about mental awareness and bringing the community together,” Cecely Todacheenie said.
“Skateboarding to me means good medicine because it has definitely been there for me during tough times,” she said. “It’s like unconditional love because sometimes you get upset, mad and you hate it, and you then love it.
“It’s a love-hate relationship,” she said. “But it’s also an outlet that has definitely helped and molded me into the person I am today. I’ve been able to push past failures. It’s definitely a tool that is important to me.”
Cecely Todacheenie is Kinyaa’áanii (Towering House Clan), born for Haltsooí (Meadow People Clan). Her maternal grandfather is ‘Áshįįhí (Salt People Clan), and her paternal grandfather is Deeshchii’nii (Red Streak People Clan).
An organization that provides support for mental health would be the Navajo Nation’s Division of Behavioral and Mental Health Services. Its mission is to provide quality and culturally appropriate services to Native American families living on and near the Nation.
The division’s offices can be reached at Chinle, Dilkon, Fort Defiance, Kaibeto, Kayenta, New Lands, Red Mesa, Tuba City, Crownpoint, Gallup, and Shiprock.