Evan Tlesla Adams

British Columbia
Lives in
Vancouver , BC
British Columbia CA

Actor, playwright, activist, documentarist, dancer, doctor. Calgary-based Adams is of Coast Salish heritage from near Powell River, Vancouver Island, and was educated in Victoria, Vancouver and Calgary. A teenaged poster boy and community health facilitator for the 1986 National Native Alcohol and Drug Abuse Programme, the role model came out only to see the poster withdrawn. As a playwright, Adams achieved early international success shortly thereafter and the AIDS-themed play Snapshots (1989; Adams 1992) became the flagship piece for Adams’s ongoing AIDS-education campaign within native communities. In the 1990s, his writing activities took him onto native drama slots on the CBC. As an actor, Adams won attention as the hero of the TV movies Lost in the Barrens (1990) and Curse of the Viking Grave (1993), followed by his role as Thomas-Builds-the-Fire in the U.S. indie feature Smoke Signals (1998). Although this trickster sidekick role had a queer aura in this prizewinning Native American film, it was the followup feature by the Signals scriptwriter Sherman Alexie, The Business of Fancy Dancing (2002), that brought Adams his first starring explicit queer role. His award-winning performance as a successful writer who makes a conflicted return visit to his reservation roots, brings out Adams’s versatility in scenes ranging from tender relationship-work with his white lover to brittle confrontations with ghosts from his past. As a documentarist, Adams collaborated with white Powell River lesbian filmmaker Jan Padgett on Kla Ah Men (2003, 88), focusing on the treaty process engaging his birthplace community, the Sliammon First Nation.