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James Roberts was born in 1970 in Tanana, Alaska. His great-grandfather was Edgar Nollner, a reknown dog musher who participated in the diptheria serum run to Nome, Alaska in 1925. His grandmother is Josephine Roberts, about whom a biography was written, Jospehine Roberts, Tanana (Curt Madison. Spirit Mountain Press for Yukon-Koyukuk School District, 1983). James grew up living a subsistence lifestyle based upon hunting, trapping and fishing, and attended the University of Alaska Anchorage, the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and was trained at the Alaska Culinary Academy in Seward. James has managed a water plant, bred, trained and raced dogs, worked with the tribal council on resource management, and run a small logging operation. For six years, he was a castmember of the Discovery Channel reality show "Yukon Men."