Jacob Pratt (Dakota and Ojibway from Cote First Nation) is one of those artists who wears many hats: he is a filmmaker, producer (Disney Channel’s Use Your Voice campaign), pow wow and hoop dancer, musician, voiceover artist (Louis Says), and TV co-host (Canadian TV series Wild Archeology). He wore many of these hats during his residency as a Creative Strategist with the Los Angeles City/County Native American Indian Commission (LANAIC).
A program that emerged out of the Cultural Equity and Inclusion Initiative, the Creative Strategist program places artists in County departments or agencies to collaborate with staff and community members to develop and implement artist-driven solutions to complex social challenges.
This Creative Strategist residency, which took place from February 2022-April 2023, came on the heels of steps by the County of Los Angeles to acknowledge past harms and engage with and address the needs of the American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) community. In July 2021, LA County Supervisors Hilda Solis and Janice Hahn introduced a motion to acknowledge and apologize for the historical mistreatment of California Native Americans by the County, stating that it is “critical that truth-telling begins with the First Peoples of what is now known as the County of Los Angeles.”
In recognition of this momentum, the goals of Jacob’s residency focused on developing ways to increase awareness and understanding of local Tribes and the AIAN community, especially their histories and cultural practices; celebrating the diversity of the AIAN community and their stories; and developing strategies and recommendations that contribute to building and sustaining trust between the County and its AIAN community.
During the first phase of his residency, Jacob, who is a relatively recent transplant to LA (he’s lived here since 2015), embarked on a listening tour, meeting with some of the LANAIC’s 15 commissioners and others in the AIAN community. Through these conversations, an idea began to take shape: to use film as a medium to raise awareness and celebrate the diversity of the Native American community in LA County.
With the time remaining in Jacob’s residency, he knew he wouldn’t be able to record everyone’s story, especially given that LA County is home to the largest concentration of American Indian and Alaska Native people in the country. Instead, Jacob sought to interview people who could provide three distinct perspectives: as a member of a local Tribe, as someone who had been relocated here during the Indian Relocation Act, and as an AIAN community member who has recently moved to Los Angeles. Jacob filmed interviews with Keith Vielle (Blackfeet Nation), Pamela Villaseñor (Fernandeño Tataviam), and Janae Collins (Dakota and Crow) in a location or setting that was meaningful to them. Through the interview process, a common theme emerged, which Jacob used to weave their stories together: how each person has experienced and overcome erasure and invisibility.
On April 22, 2023, Jacob debuted his film, Erasure, on the Los Angeles City College campus. Joining Jacob at this celebratory event were Kimberly Ortega, the Arts Deputy for LA County Supervisor Hilda Solis; Department of Arts and Culture Director Kristin Sakoda; LANAIC Chairperson Cheri Thomas (Quinault and Yurok); LANAIC Executive Director Alexandra Valdes (Tlingit and Athabascan); and LANAIC Commissioners Denise Escoto (Northern Cheyenne), Dawn Jackson (Saginaw Chippewa), John Only a Chief (Pawnee), and Mona Morales Recalde (Gabrieleno/Tongva). Several pow wow dancers performed and spoke about the significance of preserving their cultural heritage through dance including Susan Jackson (Quechan and Laguna Pueblo), who makes an appearance in the film; Shandiin Biiliilitso (Navajo); and Tso Yanez (Navajo, Yaqui, and Iroquois). Jacob, continuing his practice of wearing many hats, performed the hoop dance to the crowd’s delight. Following the film screening, Pamela and Keith joined Jacob to answer questions and explore complex topics raised by the audience.
Jacob Pratt is Dakota and Ojibway, and a Los Angeles resident since 2015. As an artist, Jacob is a pow wow and hoop dancer and has trained in contemporary and ballet dance. He is accomplished on the Native American flute; his debut album Eagle Calls won the Aboriginal People’s Choice Award for Best Flute Album. He has performed live across the globe and appeared in film and television. In addition to co-hosting the Canadian TV series Wild Archeology, Jacob voiced a character on the animated show Louis Says and appeared in Outlander for Starz. Combining his arts and business education—he has a Master of Science in social entrepreneurship, USC Marshall School of Business and a bachelor’s in business administration, First Nations University of Canada—Jacob has run multiple companies, earning him the CCAB 2016 National Youth Entrepreneurship of the Year Award. For his production company Skoden Entertainment, Jacob has worked on projects for Disney Channel’s Use Your Voice campaign, for which he received a Clio Award, and a mini-series broadcast in Canada and the US. Jacob considers himself a business professional with the heart of an artist. His ultimate goal is to use his skills and experience to increase diversity and inclusion within the entertainment industry.