Home Faculty meeting Fake Indians prevalent in higher education

Fake Indians prevalent in higher education

0

In June 2021, an anonymous report began circulating in Canadian academic circles. It listed six faculty and staff at Queen’s College in Kingston, Ontario.

“Queen’s College is currently overrun with white Canadians making false claims about Aboriginal identity – particularly Algonquin,” it read. “We are confident that our extensive research has focused on six of the most important and harmful cases.”

The college has dismissed the allegations, prompting a written protest signed by more than 100 Indigenous scholars, condemning “white professors claiming Indigenousness based on family traditions or an Indigenous ancestor from hundreds of years ago …claiming both a trauma and a healing that was never theirs as they embrace what scholars and advocates recognize as the final stage of settler colonization: “settler self-indigenization” .

In response, Queen’s College promised to review its hiring policies.

Native Americans complain that the problem is widespread in American colleges and universities.

FILE – Students walk through The Green in front of Dartmouth College’s Baker-Berry Library in Hanover, NH

Dartmouth University in 2015 removed Susan Taffee Reed from directing the Native American program after learning that her “tribe” was a Pennsylvania nonprofit, some of whose members have no Native ancestry. Dartmouth moved her to another position.

As The New York Times reported in 2021, University of California, Riverside, scholar and activist Andrea Smith falsely claimed Cherokee identity for years and received scholarships aimed at underrepresented groups in the university environment.

Cases like these prompted journalist Jacqueline Keeler in 2021 to start investigating the issue. To date, she has drawn up a list of 200 “suspects”.

“A lot of these people are names I’ve been hearing for some time in tribal circles that turned out to be cheats,” said Keeler, a Navajo Nation citizen whose father was Yankton Sioux.

“As a reporter, I was working on a story about someone, only to find out that person wasn’t actually indigenous.”

Keeler works with tribal registration services, genealogists and historians.

“We go back into their family histories as far back as the 1600s to try to find someone who was registered or lived in an Indian community and was clearly associated with a tribe.”

VOA has obtained a copy of the list, which names artists, authors, actors and dozens of academics. VOA does not publish the list because it cannot be independently verified.

FILE - This photo shows Iron Eyes Cody, an Italian-American famous for fabricating Native American identity.  Seen here presenting former President Jimmy Carter with a Native American headdress in the Oval Office in Washington on April 21, 1978.

FILE – This photo shows Iron Eyes Cody, an Italian-American famous for fabricating Native American identity. Seen here presenting former President Jimmy Carter with a Native American headdress in the Oval Office in Washington on April 21, 1978.

Some people have criticized Keeler for leading a witch hunt. But she has strong support in native circles.

“I don’t think Jackie intends to do anything with it,” Ben Barnes, chief of the Shawnee Tribe in Oklahoma, told VOA. “I think it’s a place where natives get together and say, ‘Hey, you’re not crazy. We’ve been saying this from the start, that academia is plagued by paternalism!'”

‘Step-offs’ and high cheekbones

Federally recognized tribes are sovereign nations that have exclusive rights to determine membership. Criteria vary; most tribes require documented lineage, historical listings, and/or blood quantum, some degree of Native American blood.

Other factors are also important, such as a person’s knowledge of the culture, knowledge system, history, language, religion, family ties, and the strength with which a person s identify as American Indian or Alaska Native.

Native Americans argue that claimants often fabricate stories to explain “Indian” identity, claiming ancestors who refused to be listed on government rolls or were misidentified on state census forms. Some cite high cheekbones or straight black hair as proof of indigenity.

Scottish memoirist Williamson claimed he was captured by Indians in 1750s America and later visited Britain as a "a red Indian."

Scottish memoirist Williamson claimed he was captured by Indians in 1750s America and later visited Britain as a ‘Red Indian’.

Charles Gourd, a Cherokee Nation citizen and former director of the Oklahoma Indian Affairs Commission, admitted to being duped by a suitor.

“He claimed to be Cherokee,” Gourd said. “So one day I asked him which of the three Cherokee tribes he was from. And he said, ‘No, no, we were -‘ and he used a term that I had never heard before – ‘step -offs, “Indians who supposedly left the Trail of Tears (forced deportation to Oklahoma) and hid in the mountains.”

Suitors across the country have organized themselves into fake tribes such as the Southern Cherokee Agency to access benefits and rights reserved for Native Americans or other minorities.

FILE - This July 5, 1999 shows a 40-foot pyramid at a 476-acre compound in Eatonton that was once home to a group calling itself the Yamassee Native American Nuwaubians and bulldozed in 2005, after their leader was convicted of pedophilia and racketeering.

FILE – This July 5, 1999 shows a 40-foot pyramid at a 476-acre compound in Eatonton that was once home to a group calling itself the Yamassee Native American Nuwaubians and bulldozed in 2005, after their leader was convicted of pedophilia and racketeering.

Policy makers

In March, the University of Michigan launched an online forum series, “Unsettling Genealogies: A Forum on Pseudo Indians, Race-Shifting, Pretendians and Self-Indigenization in Media, Arts, Politics and the Academy.”

Chief Barnes participated, as did Kim TallBear, a Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate professor at the University of Alberta.

“Non-Indigenous people with non-Indigenous community views posing as Indigenous and moving up the professional ladder falsely represent our voices,” TallBear said. “They theorize about Indigenous people, sovereignty, and anti-colonialism. They become thought leaders, institutional decision makers, and policy advisors to government leaders with regulatory and economic power over our peoples and lands.”

Race change is particularly harmful in academia, she said. The claimants write books and shape academic and public discourse about who Indigenous peoples are, how they live, and how Indigenous policies should be formulated.

“The suitors are cut off from the very trust we need to have in academia, where much of what we know (about Indigenous history and thought) comes from,” said David Cornsilk, historian and genealogist. retired from the Cherokee Nation. “If an institution is unwilling to verify the authenticity of its hires, that says a lot about their scholarship.”

Race versus Citizenship

But is hiring verification legal?

U.S. Civil Rights Law prohibits employers from considering race, color, religion, sex, or national origin in any aspect of employment unless they have a legitimate business need. , such as compliance with diversity guidelines.

In such cases, the law allows employers to collect racial information on separate “tear-off” sheets, but states that this information cannot be used in the selection process.

The United States government recognizes as Native American/Alaska Native anyone who has a blood credential and is recognized as such by a federally recognized tribe or village as an enrolled tribal member. Moreover, it is said that “Indian” is not a racial designation but a political one.

“If someone asks me if I’m a resident of the state of Oklahoma, I pull out my driver’s license,” Chief Shawnee Barnes said. “Why is asking someone to show their tribal ID a problem?”

In March, the National Association of Senior Leaders of Indigenous Universities and the First Nations University of Canada (FNU) hosted a national online forum on Indigenous identity to explore the best ways to validate claims of identity. Although the forum was closed to the media, FNU President NIUSLA Co-Chair Jacqueline Ottmann spoke to the media afterwards via Zoom.

“Universities are wrestling with this whole thing and trying to figure out what to do,” Ottman told reporters. “On the one hand, they don’t want to insert themselves into the role of those who determine identity or citizenship. But on the other hand, they don’t want to give opportunities to people who are not indigenous. “