Clay Shank is a skateboarder, first and foremost.
However, the skateboard, as it’s done for anyone who has ever had one, acts as a gateway into knowing people, appreciating places, and asking questions. Clay’s second passion is documentary filmmaking. He made one in which he skated 700 miles through the western United States, and another documenting the people and places between Portland, OR and Boulder, CO. In his most recent serial doc, the first part of which is featured above, he travels to the Crow Creek Reservation of South Dakota to donate ten completes to the people there. Until this past Monday evening, Clay Shank hadn’t ridden in a car in about two months in protest of the Dakota Access Pipeline. However, with the horrors in North Dakota becoming too real to ignore, he felt no choice but to get the car started and fill it with as much donated winter gear as he could find. Then he hit the road to document and take part in the protests. Some words from the ever-poetic Shank himself:
I’m an adventurer. I love the excitement of the unknown. I skate a lot because skating is all-inclusive; if you look at the values packed in that small little package and think of all that you get out of it…it’s one of the best things we have on this planet. In my attempts to share the joy that I’ve seen amongst friends, family, strangers, and the wild landscapes of America, I’ve also become a writer and filmmaker. I travel as much as I can, see as much as I can, think about positive things and how to enjoy skateboarding with more and more people.
Earlier this year, I protested the Dakota Access Pipeline by not riding in a car for almost two months, starting September 4th, when my friend Walker and I climbed Mt. Whitney, then I skated back to my home in the Bay Area, preaching of the evils of this pipeline. I haven’t ridden in a car at all in protest, except for yesterday to get my car started. Things have escalated so much in North Dakota that I need to fight oil with oil and get out there to do everything I can to promote a peaceful resolution to this unjust situation.
At this moment I’m happy to be drinking a cup of coffee, getting caffeinated so I can skirt back to my car and start loading the winter gear that has been donated from this town into it, then I’m heading over to my hometown of Mill Valley, California where the best skate shop in the world, Proof Lab, is hosting a Halloween skate party with the option to donate to my mission. Then I’m driving to North Dakota. I’m going to bring the donated wares, and hopefully pick up some more things tonight, be it tents or zero degree sleeping bags. Once I’m out there, I’m going to be part of the mass of people out there who are praying for a peaceful resolution because we know how serious an oil spill under the Missouri River at Lake Oahe would be to the environment of the entire United States. I’m going there as a privileged white man to stand and say that the way that white people have treated native people in this country since our arrival has been atrocious. You’re watching hundreds of people getting arrested, pepper-sprayed and attack-dogged, because they’re building this pipeline. The Missouri River is an American river. It’s a place Lewis and Clark described as “paradise.” Now it’s a wasted grid of fracked oil and reservoirs. It’s native land and we’re not going to ignore the native people anymore. So, I’m driving to Standing Rock with my video camera and I’m going to drink as much coffee as I can on the way there and be fired up enough to get everybody who is in a position of relative privilege to say “No, no, no. No Dakota Access Pipeline. The native people have voiced their concerns and we are listening to that.”
It’s quite ironic to drive there isn’t it? It’s oil fighting oil. However, this is a pretty big issue—it is intense, and growing more intense. It has the potential to birth a new consciousness in our land. If you can be a part of it in any way, you should. If you can send good winter equipment from where you are, you can do a little research online of how to donate those things. And, in your own life, don’t shy away from talking about these injustices and consider how much you use. Take my word for it, a life with more walking brings a great deal of peace. Minimize your impact as much as you can, appreciate nature and the beautiful things that are already here, and think about Native Americans and what their life might be like watching some militarized construction effort coming towards their life sustenance—all of our lives sustenance.
I bathe in the ocean here in California and I like to imagine that it’s all connected. That the things that are happening in North Dakota affect us here too. The last thing I want to do is think about oil creeping down the Missouri River and down the Mississippi River and into the Gulf of Mexico. It’s a mess. Do whatever you can to minimize your impact and enjoy life. It is beautiful, but it doesn’t have to be destructive to be beautiful. There are many free joys in this world—skateboarding is one of them, sunrises are another. Think about peace, make yourself heard anyway that you can, and if you can get there, get there.