Tom Jackson describes music as "the heartbeat" of his early family life. He was given his first guitar at the age of 10. When he was 17, blessed with a fine bass baritone, he began playing the coffeehouse circuit.
Tom JacksonThomas Dale Jackson, actor, singer (b at One Arrow First Nation Reserve, Bellevue, Sask 27 Oct 1948). Tom Jackson dropped out of a Winnipeg high school at 15, taking to a life on the streets for the next 7 years. From these humble beginnings, he rose to become one of Canada's favourite and most honoured First Nations performers.
Tom Jackson describes music as "the heartbeat" of his early family life. He was given his first guitar at the age of 10. When he was 17, blessed with a fine bass baritone, he began playing the coffeehouse circuit. In a short time he became one of Canada's top-billed native singers, appearing on the prestigious Mariposa stage in the early 1970s. As an early activist for native causes, he was in South Dakota when the infamous Wounded Knee standoff occurred in 1973. Realizing that he could affect more people with a song than with a gun, Jackson turned to radio and television, producing public affairs and native-rights programs for the CBC in Edmonton and Winnipeg. He also wrote plays and was a morning-radio disc jockey in Winnipeg.
Tom Jackson's early stage credits include the lead in George RYGA's play The Ecstasy of Rita Joe for Winnipeg's Prairie Theatre Exchange. This led to a substantial part in Anne WHEELER's Loyalties (1986) and a GENIE Award nomination for best supporting actor. He moved to Toronto and appeared in local stage productions; he also developed and overcame a serious cocaine addiction. By the end of the decade his career took off. He had a small part in the film Clearcut (1991) and was chosen to play Billy Twofeathers in Shining Time Station (1990-93), the PBS series based on the popular English children's show featuring Thomas the Tank Engine. His best-known role is that of Chief Peter Kenidi, the Dene community leader in the popular CBC TV series North of 60 (1992-98). The series made him a sex symbol, attracting a large female fan base, and he was subsequently chosen to play Jules Tonnerre, the tormented Métis singer/songwriter who drifts in and out of Morag Gunn's life in the CBC-produced adaptation of the Margaret LAURENCE novel The Diviners (1993). Tom Jackson received GEMINI Award nominations for his music and acting in The Diviners.
Other television credits include Medicine River (1993) with Graham GREENE, Spirit River (1993), Star Trek: The Next Generation (1994) and three North of 60 made-for-television movies: Trial by Fire (2000), Dream Storm (2001) and Distant Drumming: A North of 60 Mystery (2005). In Tales from the Longhouse (2000), a 26-episode half-hour series, he played Hector Longhouse, a mystical First Nations storyteller in a world of animals.
His Dreamcatcher Tour was a 10-year project to build awareness about suicide prevention and empowerment among aboriginal communities, and when his Huron Carole Benefit Concert Series came to an end, he launched the Singing for Supper and Swinging for Supper tours. He owns the Calgary-based production company Tomali Pictures and Studios, and since 1988, his charitable efforts have raised more than $10 million for food banks, family service agencies and disaster relief.
A thrice Gemini Award-nominated star of North of 60, Tom Jackson has received 2 Juno Award nominations, a Canadian Aboriginal Music Award, the Queen's Jubilee Medal in 2002 and Centennial medals from Alberta and Saskatchewan in 2005. He was invested as an Officer of the ORDER OF CANADA in 2000. He has been awarded honorary degrees from 9 Canadian universities and is the recipient of dozens of humanitarian awards. In 2009 he was appointed chancellor of Trent University.