Joining us in The Green Room today is a guest that truly embodies a wonderful ethos to live by, Jim Warne- Welcome!
Pilamaya (thank you).
Professional football (not to be confused with soccer) player, turned actor, film producer, college educator, administrator, motivational speaker, coach, business owner and entrepreneur. You didn’t fancy a quiet life?
Pilamaya for inviting me to discuss my life’s varied work. My dream was always professional (American) football, the film industry and higher education. Admittedly, my parents dream was that their sons would graduate from university and we did. After graduating with my bachelor’s degree, I was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals and signed with other NFL teams. I also played World League/NFL Europe and had an opportunity to play in the original Wembley stadium! I was thinking of all the historic events in that stadium as I ran onto the field. I frequently say that the NFL stood for “Not for Long” in my case. This was an unexpected blessing as I started post-graduate studies in San Diego, California. While at Pacific Beach I was introduced to a casting agent and suddenly my acting and stuntman career began. I found that acting and stunt work was intermittent for large (I am just over two meters) Native American actors. I used my acting experience to study the directors, producers, sound, cinematography, anything I could learn knowing I would eventually be behind the camera.
Many filmmakers and producers spend hours, weeks and years sourcing content for documentaries- for The 7th Generation you didn’t need to look far. Tell us about your Oglala Lakota (Sioux) heritage and how the film came to be?
The 7th Generation is a product of my lectures I have been sharing at universities, conferences and presentations throughout the world. I was keynote at a conference, John-L Voth approached me about making a film based on my lecture. I have been planning to make a film of my work, so this was a perfect time for us to meet. John did a fantastic job as director sharing my vision. Thank you for identifying my Tribal Nation as Oglala Lakota, we were named the great Sioux nation by Euro Americans. Most Tribal Nations were renamed to accommodate the English language. The root language of “Sioux” is a French adaptation from other Tribes. I was raised to respect my Oglala Lakota culture. Black Elk, a Lakota spiritual man, indicated it would take seven generations to heal our sacred hoop after the Wounded Knee massacre. In the Lakota way we are taught to think seven generations behind and ahead. That is a great responsibility to ensure our culture continues. I often find that Europeans and Asians are more aware and respectful of our culture than Americans as it is not accurate in American education and curriculum.
Being Indian at heart yet learning the contemporary American system…. I guess the system right now is a scary one to comprehend! How can things change?
As referenced in the previous question, our American education system needs to change! Montana is the only state in America that requires Indigenous studies in high school curriculum. This was a resent change as a result of advocacy from the Montana Tribes and a state legislature that was open minded. Sadly, we are an afterthought in American curriculum, post-secondary included. We are not truly known or understood by most of our population. I hope in some small way my advocacy was heard in my United States Senate Testimony in 2011.
Why do you think your film “7th Generation” has been so successful around the world at Film Festivals?
My role as an educator and filmmaker is to educate the masses with truth of our history. Many viewers ask me why they were not taught this in school. It is truly “ignorance by design”. Due to this new “awareness” from the viewers, they finally learn the truth instead of what they are taught in our education system. The educators themselves are products of the education system, so how can they teach what they do not know or understand. It is time for this generation to learn about our culture. I hope this continues.
So currently you are inspiring others with your company Warrior Society Development! One of your key philosophies that you educate people on is the Native American Medicine Wheel, tell us more about that and how you incorporate this into your everyday life?
The Medicine Wheel is a spiritual foundation for our people for thousands of years. It is a philosophy we use for our spirituality. It is much older than Christianity and religion. When researching world spirituality, you will find many similar circular philosophies for other Tribal Nations, including Europe. Remember all of us as two legged were once members of Tribal Nations. This changed with various wars and conflicts that wanted to eliminate those Tribes and convert the remaining members to religion, Christianity and/or Colonialism.
Let’s take a diversion and head to 1987 and the Rose Bowl….tell us all about that experience?
What a dream come true for me! I have been attending Arizona State University football games since I was 6 years old. My dad had season tickets and I grew up dreaming of playing for ASU. I received a scholarship to play for ASU and I was fortunate to be a starting strong tackle for the 1987 Rose Bowl Championship team! I joke that I wanted the best seats for the Rose Bowl as an ASU fan, so I decided to play in the game. Again, I feel blessed to live my dreams and this was definitely a big one for me in my younger years!
Your NFL success lead to actor roles is that correct? How was this process for you?
As I shared, my professional football career was not long, yet it has provided me with great experiences. It also taught me a high level of commitment, dedication and hard work and helped to finance two college degrees. Now that I am older, a short pro career turned out for the better health wise. So many long-term NFL players have medical problems and shorter life spans. I am feeling the physical effects of my short career and have immense respect for those that are able to play for many years. I used the high expectation of professional sports and applied it to my daily life. This allowed me to never give up on my dreams. I share this with the youth camps I conduct throughout “Indian Country”. I have worked with over 10,000 youth though my Warrior Society Development, LLC youth camps and other youth camps I’m invited to share my message and experience as a Native American pro athlete with an education. I mentor many young athletes today and this is another responsibility for future generations.
I guess you are seen as a stereotypical big bad guy or seen playing a Native American character- did you mind this?
This fact is a primary reason I left my acting career. Quality Native characters are very limited, and my physical size also limits my acting options. The stereotype is that large individuals are not capable of intellectual characters, same for Native characters. I hope to change that from behind the camera and as a writer and educator. Maybe Hollywood will cast a Native American US President before my prophesy that it will happen in our future!
What’s next for you with regards to films?
I’m currently a co-producer for “Decade of Dominance, The Warriors”. A Daniel Golding film that tells the story of the San Pasqual football team on the Fort Yuma Quechan reservation. We had our South Dakota premiere at the Indigenous Film Festival on the Oglala Lakota nation at Pine Ridge. It was a great experience to screen our new film on my homelands. I am currently in pre-production for “Indian Camp” a shantytown along Rapid creek where my mother lived during her childhood. Native people were not welcomed to live in Rapid City. The “No Indians Allowed” signs were in the windows of stores and restaurants. This was my mom’s first experience with hate and racism. This will be the next film to help educate the viewers.
Experience Life… Be Prepared… Set Goals… Live your Dreams… Jim, you are certainly inspiring! Thank you so much for your time and the insight into your life by the camera and beyond. We wish you all the best for now and hope to see you at a Fusion festival in the future.
Thanks very much for the invitation to talk about my work and share some of my insights and perspectives for our people. Pilamaya…