An Edmonton man is using his TikTok fame to teach his followers about Indigenous culture and history.
James Jones has quickly risen to online fame on the app, boasting one million followers.
“I never take a dance video and do the exact same thing as everyone else. I’ll always put my own Indigenous perspective or my own personal spin on it,” Jones said.
The Edmonton creator began using the app in March while spending a lot of time at home. He started posting comedy videos on TikTok, without much traction.
“Then I thought I would switch to dance because I’m a dancer. [The video I did] blew up and went viral. I think it ended up getting almost three million views.”
Jones can be seen dancing, performing skits and showing off his regalia and beadwork in various videos posted to the app.
The creator, who goes by the handle “NotoriousCree” online, said he’s passionate about sharing aspects of his culture.
“I feel like a lot of the time, our stories are told by non-Indigenous people so it’s really important to have that representation within our community.”
In a recent video Jones, who is from the Tallcree First Nation, explained why he wears his hair long and in braids.
“I was taught that, as Indigenous people, our hair is an extension of our spirit. I always braid my hair with positive thoughts so I can carry that energy with me throughout the day,” Jones explained in the video. “It wasn’t that long ago my people were forced to cut their hair in residential schools. I braid my hair to honour my ancestors.
Hoop dancing is also a prominent feature in the video. Jones said the dance style represents healing and is also used in storytelling.
Jones said he’s been speaking out on social media about movements he is passionate about, but is only now seeing tangible traction.
“I remember talking about Idle No More, Standing Rock, Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women on other platforms. It would never get any traction. I feel with TikTok you can actually tell your story, raise awareness and tell it like you want to tell it. It can just blow up.”
The TikTok star said he gets a lot of positive messages from his Indigenous followers.
“I get a lot of people saying ‘I wasn’t raised in my community’ or ‘I was adopted, I never knew about this stuff. I’m so thankful you’re sharing.’ Those are the comments I really enjoy,” Jones said. “There are also the trolls and the negative people … that comes with the territory. I try to focus on the positive.”
He said an exciting moment was becoming “verified” on TikTok, alongside a few other Indigenous creators.
Jones said the past six months have been a whirlwind, including interviews with Vogue and Buzzfeed.