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James Jones: Championing Indigenous Storytelling and Entrepreneurial Freedom in the Digital World

In the swiftly changing landscape of digital media, James Jones, also known by his TikTok handle @notoriouscree, has emerged as a prominent Indigenous influencer and entrepreneur. Originating from the Tall Cree First Nation near Edmonton, Alberta, Jones’ narrative is one of cultural resilience and a source of inspiration for Indigenous communities seeking to carve out a space in the digital ecosystem.

Amassing a following of over four million on TikTok, he infuses his content with an electrifying mix of hoop dancing, pow wow steps, and hip-hop, resonating a powerful connection to his Indigenous heritage. His artistic expression has graced global stages, from the Winter Olympics to the Sydney Opera House, redefining Indigenous storytelling through movement and rhythm.

At a TikTok Accelerator for Indigenous Creators event in Winnipeg, Manitoba, in November 2023, Jones joined a discussion highlighting the power of TikTok in breaking down traditional media barriers. He shared his early experiences with media misrepresentation following a pivotal victory in a break-dancing competition at 18.

Reflecting on a past interview, Jones shared, “They focused more on my struggles rather than the achievement. Instead of ‘Indigenous Break-dancer Triumphs in Contest,’ the story was angled as ‘From Gangs to Glory.’ That was a turning point for me in understanding the power of owning one’s narrative.”

This spurred his advocacy for Indigenous self-representation, to counteract the often one-dimensional stories portrayed by mainstream outlets.

Jones observed a seismic shift with the rise of digital platforms like TikTok, where Indigenous creators began sharing their own diverse and multifaceted stories, sometimes reaching wider audiences than traditional news outlets. “It’s transformative when the stories are coming directly from the source, from those with lived experiences, rather than an external narrative,” he said.

Off-camera, Jones dedicates his energy to community initiatives, touring North America to engage with young people about self-identity, ambition, and living healthily through cultural practices.

His entrepreneurial spirit was recently honored with the Shopify Entrepreneurial Spirit Award at the Pow Wow Pitch 2023 Indigenous Entrepreneur Awards. For Jones, entrepreneurship represents a pathway to autonomy and cultural expression.

“To me, entrepreneurship is fundamentally about freedom—the freedom to define your own journey, to express yourself on your own terms, and the joy of being fully invested in your life’s work,” Jones articulates.

James Jones stands as more than an artist or businessperson; he’s a pivotal figure in the redefinition of Indigenous presence in digital spaces. His ascent from the Tall Cree First Nation to an international TikTok sensation embodies the essence of self-expression and cultural integrity. As he continues to motivate and empower the youth, Jones symbolizes the enduring impact of storytelling in preserving Indigenous traditions and the liberating potential of entrepreneurship.

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