The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Fake Indian Syndrome

Posted on | May 6, 2023 | Comments Off on Fake Indian Syndrome

“Cultural appropriation” is now so frowned upon that the friendly face of the Land O’ Lakes maiden has been banished as racist, although it is far from clear how anyone was harmed by butter package labels. We’re not supposed to question the logic of these Crusades of the Anointed, but rather just accept the claims by some group of “activists” about what is offensive — rename the Washington Redskins and Cleveland Indians, banish Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben from the grocery shelves, do whatever the activists say, because to do otherwise is racist.

Much of the energy behind these revisionist crusades comes from the progressive hives of academia, where identity politics has been weaponized as the ultimate arbiter of power. To be white, male or heterosexual — or, God forbid, all three — is to partake of unjust privilege, according to scholars tutored in the power-matrix ideologies of Foucault, et al., who see the world as a conspiracy of oppression aimed at women, racial minorities and those on the LGBTQ spectrum of sexuality.

This paranoid obsession with identity has had the effect of incentivizing fraud, as in the notorious case of Elizabeth “Fauxcahontas” Warren, who spent years falsely claiming to be Native American in order to qualify as a “diversity” hire in academia’s affirmative action regime. Such cases are apparently common, as in the recent example of Kay LeClaire:

The University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW Madison) awarded a $5,000 residency to Kay LeClaire, a woman recently exposed for faking her Native American ancestry.
LeClaire is the latest “pretendian” who profits by providing art or expertise to universities, museums, or other institutions, all of which are pushing for inclusivity in curriculum, faculty makeup, and exhibitions.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that LeClaire served as “community leader in residence for the Center for Design and Material Culture,” a residency dedicated to “the development of a toolkit and curriculum around cultural appropriation.”
John Lucas with UW-Madison Communications told Campus Reform that “LeClaire is a prominent figure in the community,” and the university learned about her faked ancestry “through reports on social media and local media.”
“LeClaire’s campus residency was ending at the end of 2022,” he continued. “She resigned before the formal end date. It will not be renewed.”

(Hat-tip: Instapundit.) Among the weird details of Kay LeClaire’s story is that in 2019, she protested against a new Madison nightclub calling itself The Winnebago. This was a perfectly logical name, as the club’s address was 2262 Winnebago Street. In the wake of LeClaire’s protest, the club changed its name to The Burr Oak, but the street is still called Winnebago, so what exactly was the “social justice” benefit?

It is claimed that “Winnebago” has an etymology that is derogatory, and articles supportive of LeClaire’s protest made reference to the tribe “on whose stolen ancestral lands Madison sits,” to which any sensible person can only reply: “So?” Is there some proposal that all the white people should leave these “ancestral lands” so that they might be reclaimed by the tribe’s descendants? The current population of Madison is 269,840. The entire Ho-Chunk Nation (said to be the original occupants of this region) numbers less than 7,000. The city of Madison constitutes about 77 square miles of land. Between reservation and trust lands, the Ho-Chunk Nation controls about 16 square miles of land in Wisconsin, none of which seems to be near Madison. So how does the naming of a nightclub on Winnebago Street in Madison become controversial, with local media making noise about “stolen ancestral lands”?

Such controversies are fundamentally irrational, as the activists are not interested in anything other than inciting an emotional reaction, appealing to “progressive” sentiment about the historical injustices suffered by various victim groups, whose supposed grievances are leveraged to gain political advantage. Kay LeClaire started making a public spectacle of herself as an indigenous activist around 2017, claiming to have various ancestral claims to Native American identity, until some anonymous person on the Internet began researching her genealogy and determined that, in fact, LeClaire’s ancestry is German, Swedish and French Canadian. And, as I say, such “pretendians” are a proliferating phenomenon in academia, especially in Canada: Professor Carrie Bourassa (University of Saskatchewan), President Vianne Timmons (Memorial University of Newfoundland), and Gina Adams (Emily Carr University), among others, prompting a very obvious inquiry: “Why so many Canadians pretend to be indigenous.”

The demand for increased indigenous representation in Canadian universities is the main motive for the cases there, but the U.S. certainly has no shortage of such frauds:

An anthropology professor at the University of California, Berkeley, whose identity as Native American had been questioned for years apologized this week for falsely identifying as Indigenous, saying she is “a white person” who lived an identity based on family lore.
Elizabeth Hoover, associate professor of environmental science, policy and management, said in an apology posted Monday on her website that she claimed an identity as a woman of Mohawk and Mi’kmaq descent but never confirmed that identity with those communities or researched her ancestry until recently.
“I caused harm,” Hoover wrote. “I hurt Native people who have been my friends, colleagues, students, and family, both directly through fractured trust and through activating historical harms. This hurt has also interrupted student and faculty life and careers. I acknowledge that I could have prevented all of this hurt by investigating and confirming my family stories sooner. For this, I am deeply sorry.”
Hoover’s alleged Indigenous roots came into question in 2021 after her name appeared on an “Alleged Pretendian List.” The list compiled by Jacqueline Keeler, a Native American writer and activist, includes more than 200 names of people Keeler says are falsely claiming Native heritage.

Adrienne Keene has an exhaustive examination of Hoover’s fakery, complete with obituaries and census records about Hoover’s actual ancestors, the majority of whom came from upstate New York, north of Albany, and none of whom had any connection to the tribes from which Hoover claimed descent. Much like Liz Warren, Hoover used the claim of “family lore” to defend her appropriation of indigenous identity, but doesn’t it seem curious that an academic with proven abilities as a researcher would have never taken the time to investigate her own family tree? So much data is now available online that anyone can research their genealogy quite easily — not like the pre-Internet era, when you had to scroll through lots of microfilm of census records. This makes it difficult for someone like Hoover to defend herself by claiming she made an innocent mistake, basing her identity claims on “family lore” when it would be so easy to verify or disprove such tales of indigenous ancestry. No, it is entirely fair to assume that such deceptions are deliberate, and that academics like Hoover are trying to game the system, enhancing their career potential by adding extra “diversity” to their resumés.




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