Simon Daniel James

Ever since I realized that I didn't have a culture of my own I've been interested in, and involved with other cultures. I've found that people with dual experience of both Western and indigenous cultures have useful insight into learning and growing up.

Through some friends I met the artist Simon Dick, and after I described this project to him, he introduced me to his son Simon James. Simon James started as a Native artist, learned filmmaking, and now spends much of his time producing the "Raven Tales" project in which he uses tales from different North American indigenous cultures as the basis for animated children's films.

Although it seems surprsing, perhaps it is only to be expected that his work is welcomed throughout the Americas, Europe, Asia and the Middle East. He is, after all, offering wisdom from our oldest cultures through an entertaining and easily understood medium.

In this interview Simon talks about the environment in which he, his parents, and his grand parents grew up. Trained in the traditional Kwakwakua culture, as well as in modern technology, business and politics, Simon lives in both worlds. This is harder than it sounds.

Interview Excerpts
Read the full interview :

"Prejudice is something I live with every single day. I have been beaten. I was at a party one night when I was 18 years old, and when people found out that I was Native six people jumped on me… I lasted for 20 minutes against 6 people,… I was actually the one that was dragged away by the police that night…

"I was visiting my father on my birthday. He was sick and tired of hearing me talk about how commercial fishing was dying, and… while I was sitting there he dialed the phone, and then hands me the receiver and says, “Here, make an appointment.” I didn’t know who he called! I pick up the receiver and I heard, “Vancouver Film School, how can we help you?…

"Honoring has a lot to do with growth. Native people are taught from very young to honor our elders, to respect our elders. I was a firm fighter against that because a lot of my elders proved they should not be respected or honored at all, and that respect is definitely earned…

"Here I go telling you I don’t like hearing it, and now I’m about to say it: I am now and have been drug and alcohol free for a very long time. And it isn’t that I’m trying to jump in front of a camera and get some special kind of credit, it was just a personal choice. It didn’t fit my career; it didn’t fit my lifestyle…

"Quit lying to people, you know? Accept responsibility for your own actions. And that’s where knowledge is so much more important than schooling. These are things that aren’t offered in education, it’s something that you have to seek yourself."


Raven Tales home page:

The art of Simon Dick at Inuit Gallery,and Spirit Wrestler Gallery
Kent Nerburn's home page:

Copyright © 2010, Lincoln Stoller. All rights reserved.