Indigenous ( Nehîyaw ). Dancer. Influencer. The Other.
“What does it mean to embrace your culture? To reclaim your cultural identity? James Jones (otherwise known as Notorious Cree) is an Indigenous educator that has harnessed the power of social media and technology to reclaim and share his culture.”
Taken from the Bay Street Bull Interview “How James Jones (Notorious Cree) Uses Technology to Share His Culture”, 2020
James Jones is a member of the Indigenous community in America. Although he currently lives in Canada, he is a strong advocate for Indigenous people’s rights in America to practice their culture without being oppressed or prosecuted.
And while legally, Indigenous people have a lot more rights than they did a century ago, there is still a lot of discrimination, oppression, and misconduct against them.
From cultural appropriation to dressing up as Indigenous on Halloween, Indigenous people are still the victims of social and cultural discrimination. While the White American is idealized as the heroic owner of the South American land, the injustice Indigenous people have experienced from creating the idea of Manifest Destiny in 1845 until now.
However, while Indigenous have been denied a voice and a platform since the initial start of their oppression, visual culture, especially in the context of new media such as Instagram and TikTok, has opened the stage for many more voices and ideas. Like James Jones, many Indigenous people have taken it upon themselves to educate others about their culture, traditions, and rituals.
They are actively breaking free from the stigma of the unknown and dangerous others by educating others and putting themselves in the spotlight.
My Four Favorite Videos by James Jones
James Jones on Embodiment, Culture, and Connection
“For me, it’s really awesome that I get to tell my story and share my culture on these platforms. Before all this stuff happened, I didn’t really have a huge following online. After I got TikTok and used the app in the way that it’s supposed to be used, which is storytelling through music, I was just able to share parts of my culture and the beauty of it. For me, it’s really important to share that and hopefully inspire the younger ones to be proud of who they are.”(“How James Jones (Notorious Cree) Uses Technology to Share His Culture”, 2020)
The Concept of The Other
Appropriation of the Other
Native American culture is full of symbols, traditions, myths, and rituals that are unique to the native culture and foreign to Western approaches. “In Indigenous communities, beliefs, images, stories, and traditions are tied specifically to concrete features of the land, environment, and community”. These specific concepts are valued highly and passed on through generations. The meanings of specific symbols are clearly defined and understood by members of the community universally. “Although new meanings can enhance understanding, images and symbols gain power and meaning through specific contexts and cultural traditions that require respect, interaction in the environment, and care or caretaking”. These symbols hence need passing on, need to be valued, and need to be taught for them to represent the meaning intended.
Through the Power of Social Media
The reclaiming of a voice that has been suppressed for decades, if not centuries, is difficult.
Though oppression and discrimination against Indigenous communities, a lot of knowledge about traditions, symbols, and rituals has been lost.
However, while some knowledge may be lost forever, many people have actively reclaimed their cultures. They put in a conscious effort to spread awareness about their cultural practices and traditions to other members of their communities and people who have never had the chance to engage with Native American culture.
Hoop dancing is a form of storytelling through dance. An Indigenous hoop dancer uses hoops to create shapes as they move to music. The hoops represent animals, symbols and designs.
Other Indigenous Influencers
“One of the many things I love about dancing is how empowering and confident you feel while you’re out there! Before I get on to that dance floor I am so nervous that I feel like I’m going to puke, my legs are shaking and I can’t talk. But as soon as that song starts that feeling is lifted off of me instantly! You receive so much energy from the drum and the crowd; I feel like that energy is transferred all around ❤️. (…)
There is a huge stereotype that if you are not Indigenous you can not attend pow wows, which is wrong. You are so welcomed to spectate! ❤️ just do not touch the dancers regalia without asking and be respectful is all we ask ❤️.”
Alicia Mae on Instagram