Thursday, July 02, 2015

Activist who for years has claimed to be Cherokee has no Native American ancestry

Outspoken Native American activist and scholar Andrea Smith, who since at least 1991 has claimed to be a Cherokee, and who has criticized "white feminists" for trying to disassociate themselves from their race by pretending to be Indians, is not of Native American descent, Samantha Allen reports for The Daily Beast. (YouTube photo: Andrea Smith) 

Smith, an associate professor at the University of California, Riverside and the founder of INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence, cannot link her heritage to Native Americans, said research analyst David Cornsilk, who Smith twice hired to research her genealogy, Allen writes. Cornsilk specializes in researching genealogy for the Cherokee Nation.

Cornsilk told Allen, "Her ancestry through her mother was first and showed no connection to the Cherokee tribe. Her second effort came in 1998 or around then with ‘new claims’ on her father’s lineage, which also did not pan out.”

Cornsilk, who said Smith told him her job depended on her being Native American, allegedly continued to portray herself as Cherokee, with her bio often referring to her as Cherokee and her speeches peppered with the word "we" when referring to Native Americans, Allen writes. Smith was also at the center of a controversy when she was denied tenure at the University of Michigan and "students and faculty rallied around her, suggesting discrimination on the basis of her Native American descent."

"Like Rachel Dolezal and her work with the NAACP, Smith has a long history of advocating for and speaking on behalf of Native American women," Allen writes. "But like Dolezal, her refusal to clarify her own background raises important and troubling questions about her role in that very work."

"Andrea Smith could not be reached for comment," Allen writes. "When asked for comment on Smith, INCITE! told The Daily Beast: 'We support Andy Smith and the self-determination of all First Nations People. INCITE would rather place our collective resources into abolishing settler colonialism than in perpetuating this ideology by policing her racial and tribal identity.'” (Read more)

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