Julian Black Antelope: There Is Only Love
We can’t define God, because defining anything makes it finite. That which we experience as God is infinite in its nature. But when we become aware that there is more to physicality then what we can see, smell, touch, taste, and hear, we are able to experience our God-like perspective: limitless in the process of living, the essence of our being. Whether we are religious or spiritual, we are driven to connect to our higher selves. There is no separation between our physical self and the Oneness with Everything That Exists. There is only a fuller awareness to be experienced—an empoweringly natural, outrageously delicious, and unconditionally loving self.
Artist Julian Black Antelope, aka JBA of First Nations/Central American and Irish descent, can be seen as leader of the band of Comanches, Chief Kehetu, in the original film PREY on Hulu. About his essence, he says, “I’m a spiritual being having a human experience.”
The variety in life that we are surround by is what makes us expand. Imagine a world where all and everything is the same. There would be only sameness, which would bring boredom and no questioning. It would create a world bereft of desires. And what is a world with no desires? It’s a world with no expansion. We are not the same from our physical perspective, because we all are born with a unique vantage point that is based on our ancestral, generational and current “memories.” However, that is where the beauty lies—we all are unique, but equally worthy of living the life in its fullest. And for some people, like Julian Black Antelope, who was born to even more variety than the majority of people, this allows them to be more open to embrace any identity that resonates with us—it’s a blessing. Hence seeing ourselves and the world appreciating ourselves and our differences, allowing our unique expression through our Godly, divine, spiritual selves.
“I was adopted at birth. I was a “60’s Scoop baby”, originally born the seventh child to a woman who was single. Supposedly she went to a hospital to give birth to me and gave me up for adoption. It was a Catholic hospital that was still practicing sterilization at the time, even though they weren’t allowed to. And so, once she had given birth they took me away and they sterilized her. They threatened to take her other children if she ever spoke of this. So I was put into an adoption agency that only non-native people could adopt from. I’m half indigenous. I’m actually Cree, Central American Indian and Irish. But I was raised by European people. And during my life, I was adopted into the Blackfoot tribe by a holy man named “Mokoiyoh-Soiyisis” (Wolf Tail), his English name being Jasper Buckskin, who adopted me into his family. And that’s the name I carry. I’m part of the Buckskin Black Horse Family of the Weasel People. I’m a Cree that’s been raised Blackfoot with all Blackfoot traditions and cultural ceremonies,” says Julian.
Since the moment we wake up to the moment we go to sleep, we embody different identities. First, we are a water drinker, then we are a shower taker, then we are sportsman, a meditator, a professional, a friend, a parent, and so on… We literally can take on any physical identity we desire and for as long as it feels good to us. That’s our way to fulfilling express ourselves.
Julian says, “Identity is a big part of what we need to discover about ourselves and find out how we identify with everything, put tangibly into our human brains, I guess. For me, what I grew up being called, was a half breed. So I, you know, I’m Cree, Central American Indian and Irish by blood, but I’m Blackfoot at heart, because that’s the only culture I’m raised in and know. But I still faced adversity, growing up and going to school because to Indians, to go out with someone’s daughter, I was not Indian enough. I was always kind of ostracized just in my own circle, so to speak. So, having an identity is really something that, once I was adopted into the Nation, and to that family, that was a big thing for me. It was a big turning point for me. And those are the only rituals that I practice today—it’s part of my identity. I start my day with my ceremonial practices in the morning, we smudge and we pray. That’s how I begin every day.”
The process of letting go is the process of releasing resistance that fights with what we find important in our lives. The part of the creation process that we are in control of is our powers of responding to the variety of experiences we observe and making the preference of the desire we want to experience. Consciously or unconsciously, we do that all the time. Once the clarity of the desire is made by us, it’s time to release that desire into the journey of discovering the experience of it in our physicality. The part of “how” that desire will come to fruition is to be released, because when there is too much focus on “when” and “how,” we start to measure too much. Therefore, we create a vibrational gap through our fear and doubt between where we are and where we want to be.
“I totally know what it means to lose yourself in the process of creating as an actor, a producer, or a writer. For acting, to give you an example, there’s work and there’s homework to prepare and you want to do your best and to give your best performance, so you’ve got to be a little bit vulnerable. And you’re unsure all the time. Is this what you’re looking for? But when you do this, kind of ‘let go of everything’, you really tap into those moments of inspiration and it’s like a little voice or something comes into your head and all of a sudden you do something and you know that that’s the right thing to do and you feel it. Or when you have that connection in a scene with the other actors. One of my favorite scenes to date was working with James Badge Dale in Hold the Dark. And we had this incredibly intense scene at the door. In the movie, I don’t know if you’re familiar with it, it’s Jeremy Saulnier’s movie, but it was very, very intense and very dark. When we shot it, Jeremy the director said, ‘I’m just going to set up two cameras and let it go.’ These few minutes while we were shooting this scene… It was like playing catch. We didn’t think about anything, we were just so in the moment and you’re playing a perfect game of catch you don’t even look and you’re just grabbing the ball and you’re throwing it back and they’re catching it perfectly. In fact, it was the only scene in that movie that didn’t require any orchestration. And that’s what the composer’s told me after. He said there was no music underneath the scene because we didn’t think it needed anything because it is so full. And that comes from letting go of the process, letting go of the insecurities. And it’s a beautiful thing when it happens,” shares Julian.
The magnificence of our ability to tap into our inner world and have limitless access of the creative within is undeniable. We all know and have experienced the difference of creating from inspiration or creating from too much pushing. There is a moment of allowing ourselves the access to Everything That Exists, where we can feel all those people who are desiring for us to create that which we are in the process of creating—astonishing. When we don’t force our creative drives, the are more natural and true to ourselves, both physical and spiritual.
Julian says that, “From a writing point of view, the same thing happens, like you can’t make yourself write, you can’t make yourself draw a picture. When that inspiration seizes you, you have to go for as long as it takes you. It might be two hours, it might be 10 hours, however long, you’ve got to just tap into that. And my personal belief is we’re all like radios emanating. And when you relinquish control, relinquish the need to dictate everything, you change your frequency within your body. It’s like you’re a dial that’s being tuned in and all of the sudden you pick up that radio station that has that voice that has that thing coming across. And that’s why I believe, five people around the world can have the same idea, three people are going to act on it. And only one or two will bring it to actual manifestation from the initial idea. When it happens in the arts, it creates timeless art. It’s not stuck in any era. So these are things that I totally love about this industry. The total creative process when you push aside all the mechanics of it and you let yourself go into a creative flow into a stream.”
About his character Chief Kehetu, in the film PREY, Julian says, “For the character of Chief Kehetu, a lot more was shot in that movie than what was in the final product, unfortunately. They downsized a couple of storylines—mine being one of them—to keep the focus on Amber Midthunder’s character, which is great. For myself, I’m an untrained actor, I didn’t go to a conservatory, I couldn’t afford those things. So I just kind of go on my own instincts. I’ve got the words on the page and I think about why I am saying them and so forth. And then it’s like I find when I am being truthful to it, these ideas come out-these moments of inspiration. So you’re wondering, what it is that you’re going to seize and grasp. In a way, it’s part of you, personally, because in order to portray a character you do have to have a little bit of yourself in it for it to be believable-truthfully. It flows through you.”
We can try to pretend and play a prank on ourselves, but it’s not just what we express, but the meaning, therefore the frequency we emanate that matches what we attract with and from others. Everything we create comes from inside-outwards, and it’s so true that all actors are still flowing the characters through their own experiences, whether it’s anything we feel towards something or someone, or someone or something happened to us—it’s all comes from within us.
“So to be real, if you’re playing a bad person, a negative character, it’s only because you know what it’s like to be cruel or vindictive to somebody, or you’ve know what it’s like for somebody to be vindictive and cruel to you. You have those experiences to draw from. I think acting, it’s always a healing process. I think you always become wiser as an individual when you come out of each role you play because it always seems that I’ve never been cast in a role that I couldn’t understand. And you’re cast in it because it is meant for you. And there’s something in there, maybe there’s part of that character that you need to pull out of you into the light, to discover and explore in a safe arena, to learn about yourself, or maybe make a correction on yourself to become a better person. I do believe inherently we all strive to do that on a daily basis, no matter how unconscious some people might be. It doesn’t matter. We’re all just on different levels of consciousness. If some people are just a little more closed off, they’re not ready yet. Other people are more open to it. And that’s why acting is such a beautiful healing process. You have to look within, looking at yourself, your flaws, your vulnerabilities and dig deep, and stay truthful to be real about what you’re pulling out to present to the audience because the audience is not dumb. So in order to be truthful to the story, truthful to the character, you need to search inside starting first in your little box of stuff and pull out something that you can build off of and learn and grow from,” says Julian.
Everything we do, in essence, we do for ourselves, because it’s us first and foremost experiencing it. When we do things, thinking of how others will perceive it, we might deviate of how we want to truly express it. Julian expresses it through the following example as an artist by saying, “It’s hard for me to see what I would want the audience to take away from it because so much of the character was taken out of the film. But I hear this quite frequently, people message me saying, ‘Whoa, what a presence.’ And I guess people are already receiving what it is they need to receive from it.” Julian pauses, and then continues, “As an actor, I believe my responsibility is to sit in truth in that character and speak each word. Each action I do from a truthful place, with no expectation of how that affects the audience. Because you can tell anyways, each person watching takes away from it, what they need. I used to say, ‘I’m an actor, it’s not a real job.’ And I thought about, I laughed at myself for that for a while, but then I realized the importance of that job. When we want to laugh, when we want to cry, when we want to feel anything, we pick a certain movie. I now realize it’s through my job as an actor that I’m able to help someone with that. An actor holds the power to entertain, to tell a story and let someone escape if only for a little while. Once I learned to respect that I then knew what my obligation was as an actor which is to be truthful to the text, to the story for whoever may be watching.”
Experiencing history from different angles and perspectives allows us to build our own perception of how things unfold and expand. Moreover, it can bring us to a state of appreciation for all that past generations have asked for, manifested, and done—honoring their legacy. Julian brings the awareness of the Blackfoot culture by giving reverence to their history. “I write, direct, produce and act in The Secret History TM series. It was something that started from when I was growing up, I wanted to put Blackfoot culture out there. Because here in Canada, we know a lot about Cree culture and Lakota culture from the States but there’s very little known about Blackfoot and that’s our fault too because we are very quiet, very reserved. So I wanted to bring these stories to light and really honor the culture and people. And it’s a lot of research for sure. I’m very lucky that I have a circle of genuine spiritual leaders, I don’t mean just elderly people but spiritual leaders within the community who are very knowledgeable in the peoples history-the correct history as the Blackfoot people are one of the few who have never lost their history and ways or knowing. I’m a little bit nervous every time I make a season, because I have got to make sure that it’s right. I’ve got to make sure that I’m portraying the right things. It’s a delicate balance of what to share and what is sacred knowledge so I want to make sure that I’m bringing pride and honor to the people and I’m honoring these people (the Ancestors) in the best way that I can. The series tells the stories from the perspective of our “Trickster” character (whom I portray) found in our oration. By using the Trickster character as a catalyst for story telling we make history interesting for a viewer to listen to you and also for the Trickster within our culture, adds a bit of comic relief when it’s needed. For example when there’s something really heavy, that can make people a little bit uncomfortable watching at home, Trickster is there to let the gas off. And also entertain and have fun and make you smile. And make you enjoy yourself while we take you on this indigenous perspective that’s not seen very often. Yes, there are some uncomfortable things that come with it but that’s okay. We’re not here to point fingers, or throw rocks at people’s windows, we’re just opening the door to let a little fresh air in and invite people to learn. The first season (Secret History TM : The Wild West) after airing made me really proud. It resonated through the Indigenous community in such a positive way. We also do a Blackfoot language version of the series which the old people just love, because they get to sit and listen in their own language. I never would have thought this, but one of the highest demographics that watches is non-Indigenous viewers. In particular, non-Indigenous women. I never would have thought that in a million years!” says Julian.
Feminine and masculine energy is often understood as someone being male or female within societal attitudes, behaviors, and manners. But in truth, we all have both feminine and masculine energies within all of us, and strength lays within the balance of these energies and tuning into them when needed, so we can express and experience a greater sense of harmony and fulfillment.
Julian shares candidly, “So we just finished shooting the second season of Secret History TM titled Secret History TM : Women Warriors. And it’s another one that’s long overdue, because we are shining the light on Indigenous women who were instrumental in historical events who have gone unrecognized in mainstream history for their achievements. In Blackfoot culture, women are the backbone. The foundation of everything, especially when it comes to the ceremonies. From a cultural point of view, the woman is the one with the power. We have a pair for everything that we do, there’s a male and a female, a masculine and a feminine, but it’s the woman who has the power in our culture, the woman traditionally owns everything. The man only owns the clothes on his back and his weapons. That’s it, he is expendable. A woman is not. So it’s very empowering, I think. And an honor to be able to tell those stories and put the focus on Indigenous women who have been left in the shadows, because of their male counterparts due to a male-dominated narrative. And so we want to change that. And for all these people that you may know historically, if you’re familiar with some of your history, it’s always a man, a man, a man, and a man, but I guarantee it without the woman that kept them alive or gave them the proper counsel or used her skills to negotiate, this “Man” who took the fame wouldn’t have likely survived long enough to accomplish anything and I think it’s time to switch that dynamic around.”
Julian created and founded Counting Coup Indigenous Film Academy Corp. in Alberta Canada which is the first of its kind. A PAID opportunity in a film and television training academy. He explains, “If you’re unfamiliar with the term Counting Coup, the reason why I picked that name for the Academy, is because in our culture, a warrior’s exploits are recorded, and stories retold so that they may live on. So that’s why the Academy carries this name. Because it’s recording our stories, taking back control of our narratives, but also winning victories for our people, by putting our stories out there, told, written, produced and directed by indigenous people. That’s what the academy is all about.”
Seeing the good in others is also seeing the good in ourselves. We all have moments of fear, doubt, or resentment, but giving ourselves the permission to feel it through and then releasing it is when we know—we all are good, we all are love. We can only recognize in others what we carry within.
“What I love to see in other people is the good. I mean, there are many ways you can go down a rabbit hole but the inherent thing that sits within all human beings—all of us, doesn’t matter who you are, it doesn’t matter how angry you are, how happy you are—but the intrinsic is vulnerability. When someone’s in trouble, our intrinsic impulse is to love, to care-to help. It doesn’t always mean we will or are able act upon it, but when you strip away all the exteriors, all the facades, all the masks, the bullshit identities (as I call them) you see people. How they truly are when they’re sick, when they’re weakened, when they’re in a state of vulnerability. But it is a beautiful thing. You see the beauty inside of that person. There’s humbleness, there’s only love.”
Like Julian, what are choosing to see? Are you seeing the love you are? Are you seeing that love reflecting to and from others?
Photography // Pooya Nabei