The Dolezal affair has opened up conversations that are long overdue. It also kicked off a collection of evidence on the Andrea Smith fraud.

Rachel Dolezal Outs Andrea Smith Again; Will Anybody Listen This Time?

Steve Russell
7/1/15

Why Cherokees? Why do they always claim to be Cherokees?  Over five hundred tribes to choose from and the redface bandits always come looking for us. Culturally, they’re usually faux Lakota, because tipis and war bonnets are all they know about being Indian, but they still claim to be Cherokee.

Lakota in particular and Plains Indians generally don’t embrace the stereotypes peddled in cowboy and Indian movies and they get really fired up about the sale of sweat lodges, vision quests, and Sun Dances by and to gullible citizens of the two largest modern Indian nations, the Newager and the Wanabi.

At least, Cherokees reply, you really do have sweat lodges. You just don’t sell seats in them, and pretending that you do is offensive. But faux Cherokees make the same sales when, for real Cherokees, a sweat lodge is not a sacred purification ceremony at all.

Wherever ethnic frauds get noticed, they are picking on the Cherokee Nation. Jamake Highwater was not a Cherokee. “The Venerable Dhani Ywahoo” AKA Diane Fisher claims to be a Cherokee chief. Ward Churchill embarrassed the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokees by trading on an honorary document. Jimmie Durham has made a career of being Cherokee with no known ties to any Cherokee community, although he’s claimed to be Wolf Clan and to have been raised with Cherokee as a first language.

Elizabeth Warren, bless her heart, is like virtually every white person born in Oklahoma in believing she had an Indian ancestor and naturally she wound up claiming Cherokee. No reputable researcher has been able to verify her claim and she seems to have piped down about it, but there are still at least half a dozen very well known academics who claim to be Cherokee but have no apparent ties to any Cherokee community.

If you believe the important issue is not who you claim but rather who claims you, lack of a Cherokee community would make them fakes, but the world does not work that way. One real Indian ancestor is a public opinion defense to ethnic fraud. This brings us to the defenseless Andrea Smith, who persists in representing as Cherokee in the face of all the evidence.

Back in 2008, I signed a petition favoring her tenure at the University of Michigan and subsequently published a column here saying the same thing and saying why. I did not recant my opinion that she has produced serious scholarship when she was outed as not Cherokee about a month later because I do not believe ethnicity can be or should be a condition for academic employment.

RELATED: Russell: From the bottom of the education barrel

RELATED: Russell: When does ethnic fraud matter?

Still, fraud is fraud, and professors are to some degree, whether we like it or not, role models. When I had personal contact with Andrea Smith, I came away with the same impression many people have had after personal contact with Rachel Dolezal: this is a deeply disturbed person.

How can you be an Indian without knowing which of your relatives is Indian? How can you be an Indian with no ties to an Indian community? How can you “mistake” whether or not you are tribally enrolled?

By seeking grants and honoraria and academic positions as a Cherokee, she does harm both in the sense of denying these things to real Cherokees and in the sense of representing a Cherokee culture about which she knows little. Still, I can sense that she wants to be Cherokee as desperately as Rachael Dolezal wants to be black.

When the dust settled over the outing of Andrea Smith half a dozen years ago, she had agreed to quit representing as Cherokee and several Cherokees, myself included, agreed to quit harping on the fraud already committed.

Years later, I found out she never quit playing Cherokee and, worse, her sister Justine joined what is beginning to appear to be a family scam, reportedly going so far as to submit a Cherokee Registry card with her name and somebody else’s number on it to a prospective academic employer.

I proceeded to have several emails back and forth with Wikipedia about Andrea Smith’s ethnic fraud, which was endorsed on her Wikipedia profile, to no avail.

South End Press maintained both the Andrea Smith and the Ward Churchill frauds long after they were common knowledge. When South End went south in 2014, Duke University Press picked up Smith’s book but not the claim she is Cherokee.  City Lights has picked up several of Ward Churchill’s books but not his fake identity.

Then came Rachel Dolezal, who wanted to be God’s gift to African Americans but may be remembered in Indian country as the unwitting scourge of the Wanabi Nation. Dolezal started a conversation from which few fakers who dare to participate will emerge unscathed.

That Dolezal is phenotypically white—in spite of her best efforts to tan her skin darkly and reverse engineer kinky hair—was never a problem because of the One Drop Rule. Any African ancestry—any—has been sufficient to label a person “Negro,” with all the pertaining disadvantages. The purpose of this rule is to make sure the products of slave rape (for how could a slave validly consent to intercourse with her master?) would be slaves.

I am aware of only one short-lived attempt to apply the One Drop Rule to Indians, the Racial Integrity Act of 1924 in Virginia, in which an amendment emerged nicknamed the “Pocahontas Exception.”  This was because too many members of the First Families of Virginia (FFV) claimed descent from Pocahontas, whose son with John Rolfe, Thomas, did indeed return to the New World to seek his fortune.

The Pocahontas Exception allowed a person to be white with up to 1/16 Indian blood. The sponsors of the Racial Integrity Act attempted an amendment in 1926 to remove the Pocahontas Exception and subject Indians to the One Drop Rule. This attempt failed to overcome the opposition of the FFV.

The Racial Integrity Act required “race” to be noted on every birth certificate, but recognized only two races, “white” and “colored.” This was no threat to the alleged descendants of Pocahontas because of their miniscule blood quanta. All Indians who could “pass” did so, because “colored” meant you could not marry whites or attend white schools and, in some documented cases, persons determined posthumously to be “colored” were dug up and moved out of white cemeteries.

Virginia was the exception. While laws against interracial marriage most often applied to Indians as well as African-Americans, the One Drop Rule did not. The expressed purpose of the colonial governments in tracking blood quantum was to minimize the number of Indians, which made it less expensive to separate them from their property.

Combine this troubled history of African-American and American Indian legal identities with apparently disturbed individuals and it’s amazing there are not more Rachel Dolezals and Andrea Smiths.

The challenge for the rest of us is to avoid cruelty to these people without endorsing their fantasies and to mitigate the harm that they do, whether or not they intend harm. The Dolezal affair has opened up conversations that are long overdue. It also kicked off a collection of evidence on the Andrea Smith fraud collected here, that would have never gone viral if Smith had kept her word to cease and desist or if Dolezal had not breathed life into the debate over ethnic fraud and why it matters.

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MarinDemSolstice's picture
MarinDemSolstice
Submitted by MarinDemSolstice on
Great Editorial I found very helpful in understanding faux Indian and ethnic fraud. I spent many hours searching the roles to try and discover my native roots, but was unable to locate my so-called Cherokee (YES CHEROKEE LOL) ancestors that many in my family denied for Old South political reasons. I even spent a summer at the Peace Village of Dyhani Ywahoo and came away wanting when I discovered their homophobia towards so-called two spirits. I also found it curious that for an avowed Cherokee Chief she has only amassed a small loyal tribe of white people mostly in Boston, Northern California & Germany. Having said all that, what I really wanted was to learn the ways of our Turtle Island ancestors and how they achieved harmony with the Earth Mother by seeking a spiritual path towards that union. I appears I will never be able to prove I have native ancestry, but hope at some point Native Americans will share their spiritual knowledge and other people including Whites will honor and cherish that knowledge without trying to capitalize it. We honestly have a long way to go towards changing many minds, but hope at some point the natives will share and the whites will humbly receive. It's humanity and the Mother Earth that will ultimately benefit. At this point I am at a loss as to what to do with my desire to learn and practice the old ways that my ancestors believed and that my ancestors destroyed. Sincerely - the union of the oppressed and the oppressor. I await instruction . . .

Dennis Maggard
Dennis Maggard
Submitted by Dennis Maggard on
The "one drop rule" was not a product of slavery and did not exist at the time. It was created by early 20th century white supremacists and eugenicists.

wovokanarchy's picture
wovokanarchy
Submitted by wovokanarchy on
Why Cherokees? Why do they always claim to be Cherokees? The question is asked. Simply because so many Cherokee look so damn white making it easy to pass as Cherokee. Maybe if the Cherokee Nation went to a minimum blood quantum standard this wouldn't be such a problem.

wovokanarchy's picture
wovokanarchy
Submitted by wovokanarchy on
Why Cherokees? Why do they always claim to be Cherokees? The question is asked. Simply because so many Cherokee look so damn white making it easy to pass as Cherokee. Maybe if the Cherokee Nation went to a minimum blood quantum standard this wouldn't be such a problem.

SingingHawk's picture
SingingHawk
Submitted by SingingHawk on
How can you be an Indian without knowing which of your relatives is Indian? How can you be an Indian with no ties to an Indian community? How can you “mistake” whether or not you are tribally enrolled. One does not have to be enrolled in a native nation (tribe) to be native. My grandmother was full blood Cherokee from northern Alabama. Unfortunately my mother and father were divorced when I was a baby, I never knew my father because my mother had full custody of my sisters and I and we were not allowed to have any contact with our father. Therefore I did not have the opportunity to learn about my father's family. The only information I had is what my mother told me. So before you say that I have to be an enrolled member of a tribe remember this...there are many people like me who are disenfranchised natives. To say that one has to be an enrolled tribal member to be "Indian" is wrong. Creator knows what blood flows through my veins and no man has the right to deny me my heritage.

Melissa Scott
Melissa Scott
Submitted by Melissa Scott on
Steve Russell, I wish I could follow these strict rules and conditions for identifying the weight of my drops of Native ancestry but I can't. The drops dripped too long ago in the 16-1700's. By the time the Eugenics program came in to wipe out Native identities, my ancestors were too mixed. We are lucky to have the records, names and photos of our ancestors who came from a few tribes in the East that were forced to run together to save their lives, along with Black and European. Certainly, it is easy for tribal, reservation and non-tribal people to judge chastise people (particularly out west) for such ancient drops or for not knowing the actual tribal names. As much as I care for the suffering who have lots more drops of Native ancestry, this mystery of connecting the drops to a tribe is a norm for too many people. A Vice Chief once said, "If you are here on Turtle Island, you are Native first." My glass is half full - I like who I am and would never want to represent as having anyone else's drops. Everyone honor theirs, let's try to respect other's number of drops. Focus on the people in power who have forced us to talk to each other this way. All in for everyone who says they have drops; empower them to help preserve civilization seven generations going forward and be happy.

Steves's picture
Steves
Submitted by Steves on
The Lumbee swore before congress to be cherokee for over 40 years knowing it was a lie,The Lumbee an Invented Tribe in north Carolina with no Indian history or Language swore to be Croatan the lost colony, when that failed they asked congress for Federal recognition 4 times before congress with sworn petitions, nobody challenged them about their Authenticity or are scared to challenge the Lumbee as another Cherokee frauds!! First, there are serious problems with the tribal and individual identity of the Lumbee. These Congressmen and women are not credible experts experts in the area of genealogy some researchers who have reached a difficult but clear conclusions concerning Lumbee identity that should not ignore. Paul Heinegg, whose work has been recognized by The American Society of Genealogists, concludes that the Lumbee are ``an invented North Carolina Indian tribe,'' and that many of the persons who first self-identified as Indian after switching from mulatto or white in Robeson County, North Carolina, are not of Indian ancestry. In 1909 The Reverend DF Lowery and Oxendine prepared the petition based on the invented then theory after croatan failed to Cherokee heritage with an attorney the Croatan lumbee had hired and then took it for review with the lawyer and also among the Croatan lumbees people for review after they all review it over 600 lumbee croatan people then signed the petition to Be enrolled and recognized as Cherokee, the petition and Bill to be recognized was also supported by a lumbee business association to be Cherokee enrolled and recognized as so whether you like it or not there was no Government conspiracy to name you Cherokee of Robeson County blame no one but your own, stand up to the clear facts based on the Lumbee delegations findings as Cherokee heritage proposed to congress by Croatan and for Croatan lumbee.The reverend D.F. Lowry and Clifton Oxendine, who had worked since at least 1909 to secure recognition of the Tribe as Cherokee On March 9, A.B. Locklear wrote the Department requesting the status of the Cherokee bill. Finding that no action had been taken, Locklear headed a three-year effort to get a new bill introduced. To help with the drafting of the legislation, Locklear enlisted the pro bono services of a Washington attorney named Ellwood Morey. D.F. Lowry and Clifton Oxendine, who had worked since at least 1909 to secure recognition of the group as "Cherokees",

Steves's picture
Steves
Submitted by Steves on
First, there are serious problems with the tribal and individual identity of the Lumbee. These Congressmen and women are not credible experts experts in the area of genealogy some researchers who have reached a difficult but clear conclusions concerning Lumbee identity that should not ignore. Paul Heinegg, whose work has been recognized by The American Society of Genealogists, concludes that the Lumbee are ``an invented North Carolina Indian tribe,'' and that many of the persons who first self-identified as Indian after switching from mulatto or white in Robeson County, North Carolina, are not of Indian ancestry. The Lumbee Identity theft past Bills to be recognized as Cherokee,,Very Accurate !! Petitioned and ask for by croatan lumbee member petitions in Robeson County.Lumbee leaders then SEIZED upon the idea of claiming“Cherokee” heritage.In 1910,over the objections of the existing recognized Cherokee tribes, 1. 1910(January24)Introduction of a Federal bill by Lumbee members in the U.S.House of Representatives to change the tribes name from"Croatan to"Cherokee"at the request of the Croatans(lumbee) THE BILL DID NOT PASS 2. 1913(July 10)Introduction of another federal bill by Lumbee members in the U.S. Senate to"change the tribes name from Indians of Robeson County to"Cherokee Indians"of Robeson County"by the Lumbee THE BILL DID NOT PASS 3. 1924(March 20)Introduction of a bill again by Lumbee members in the U.S. House to change the tribal name to"Cherokee"by the lumbee THE BILL DID NOT PASS 4 . 1932(May 9).A federal bill was introduced in the U.S.Senate to"RECOGNIZE AND ENROLL the tribe as"Cherokee Indians"at the request of the lumbee(croatan)council. THE BILL DID NOT PASS ATTEMPT TO STEAL A FEDERALLY RECOGNIZED TRIBES IDENTITY shame shame shame and With signed petitions each time by over 600 Lumbee members each and everYtime!

SeditiousX's picture
SeditiousX
Submitted by SeditiousX on
Having argued about Rachel Dolezal till blue in the face (because people feel flattered that she "wants to be like us") I am sad but comforted by seeing this connected thread in the Native community. As a Black woman (with a Black Indian grandfather but I'm not "claiming" anything or speaking for anyone but me) I have a long list of "rights" these faux folks are entitled to should they become accepted as who they claim to be. Ms Dolezal is Black? Then come teach some of the mis-educated students failing miserably in Chicago's West Side, in Washington DC, in Detroit. Come drive at night with your husband, fearing for his life should it turn out he forgot his driver;s license and gets pulled over. Let's talk about how your diabetes, high blood pressure, your PTSD is coming along, and if you are getting real support and info from your doctors (or if they just patronize you and admonish you to choose more vegetables.) And by the way, how many centuries old ARE you? Raised in a tipi? Come on now, son...

swrussel's picture
swrussel
Submitted by swrussel on
Thank you, Dennis Maggard, for handing me a weapon next time I get in a hassle with my editors about excessive digressions. You are correct in terms of statutory law. You are also correct that One Drop was not universal during slavery, but existed in tension with the kind of intermediate classifications of human beings that prevailed in Latin America. You don't point it out, but there's also an arguable objection to the other end of my analysis, because blood quantum has been adopted by most tribal governments. What I've written is for popular consumption and it would not pass in a refereed journal of law or history, but it's colorable in both. I take a side without fully explaining the controversy and you nailed one aspect of what was left out. I'm grateful.

swrussel's picture
swrussel
Submitted by swrussel on
@ SingingHawk. I missed the part of my own writing where I said you have to be enrolled to be Indian. That would be nonsense. On the other hand, I do look at "Indian" as a praxis rather than a status, which makes me less Cherokee than others with my blood quantum because I was born and raised in the Creek Nation. Had I never set foot in the Cherokee Nation or known any other Cherokees, my blood would not make me Cherokee in my own eyes because blood does not carry the things that set Cherokees apart from other human beings. That is also a reply to wovokanarchy, in addition to the fact that the Cherokee Nation is not the only tribe without a blood quantum requirement for enrollment and we are still the favorite redface mask. Perhaps it's the combination of no blood quantum in the largest of the three Cherokee governments recognized by the feds (the Eastern Band and United Keetoowah Band do have blood quantum requirements) and the fact that there are so many of us?

Vicki Rainbolt
Vicki Rainbolt
Submitted by Vicki Rainbolt on
If i had a dime for every time someone came up to me and said ``my grandmother was a Cherokee princess`` I would be extremely rich. She WAS NOT a Cherokee princess, we did not have Kings or Queens, so therefore we did NOT have any princesses. We did have a Beloved Woman. I dearly wish all Pow Wow would loose the term princess, and use Beloved or Honored Woman or Beloved Miss.
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