Indigenous identification fraud ‘the last word step in colonialism,’ Métis lawyer says

Since Gray Owl a century in the past,individuals of European descent have falsely claimed to be Indigenous for private acquire or a way of absolution, however one Métis authorized skilled says it could take a psychiatrist to attempt to totally reply, “why?”

“It does boggle my mind, how do you retain all these lies, balls up within the air, for many years,” stated Jean Teillet, a Vancouver-based lawyer who wrote a report for the College of Saskatchewan final 12 months exploring Indigenous determine fraud.

“What a tangled internet we weave, when first we practise to deceive … that’s what occurs. They get snarled in their very own tales,” stated Teillet, who’s the great-grandniece of famed Métis chief Louis Riel.

Teillet’s report examined the hurt attributable to Indigenous identification fraud, outlined pink flags for recognizing potential deceit and recommended measures to stop it.

It got here within the wake of a sequence of controversies over claims of Indigenous identification by outstanding members of Canadian tutorial, literary and leisure circles lately. The report was launched in October, simply because the CBC revealed an investigation into claims of Cree heritage by Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, a former decide, professor and B.C. consultant for youngsters and youth.

It’s not a brand new phenomenon, although, Teillet’s report says, pointing to Archibald Stansfield Belaney, a British-born man who claimed his mom was Indigenous and known as himself Gray Owl, rising to fame as a author and environmentalist whereas dwelling in Canada within the Twenties and ‘30s.

Teillet stated she sees Indigenous identification fraud as “the last word step in colonialism.”

She stated it undermines what it means to be Indigenous, after two centuries of presidency insurance policies aimed toward curbing Indigenous rights and stamping out Indigenous languages and cultures.

“I believe there are individuals who use (false Indigenous identification) to make themselves not really feel just like the colonizer, so that you’re not the unhealthy man,” stated Teillet.

Her report cites College of Alberta scholar Kim TallBear, who calls false Indigenous claims “a ultimate act of theft in an extended historical past of a number of layers and techniques of theft.”

Such identification fraud is akin to violence, Teillet stated.

“It’s not (violence) that leaves you with bodily bruises. Nevertheless it bruises the group, since you’re taking. It’s what colonialism does, it takes and it takes … That’s what they’re doing after they’re assuming these sorts of identities.”

The time period “pretendian” making the rounds is intelligent, Teillet stated, “however, to my thoughts, ‘faux’ makes it too harmless … It makes it troublesome to see the hurt.”

Teillet stated identification fraudsters play into stereotypes about Indigenous Peoples and get away with it partially as a result of Canadians usually aren’t educated in regards to the range and complexity of Indigenous identification and tradition throughout the nation.

“It’s no accident that Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond and Carrie Bourassa simply pulled out all these tropes about trauma and addictions and violence within the household,” she stated, referring latterly to a former well being professor who resigned from the College of Saskatchewan amid questions on her Indigenous identification final 12 months.

“That’s what Canadians take into consideration Indigenous individuals, in order that they play us, proper?”

What Canadians ought to be asking, Teillet stated, is “why do (we) purchase into it?”

Along with reliance on stereotypes, Teillet’s report says pink flags embody obscure claims, household secrets and techniques, shifting or conflicting tales, or reliance on DNA testing to search out some form of Indigenous ancestry courting again a number of hundred years in the past.

Teillet is assured therecent revelations of false identification are “simply the tip of the iceberg” in Canadian universities, authorities and different establishments, she provides.

“We’re ready for the following exposé about some high-level authorities one that’s additionally a pretend … As a result of they’re there, most likely by the lots of, if not the 1000’s.”

Canadian establishments usually lack and should set up procedures for verifying Indigenous identification, Teillet stated, beginning with a “large signal” on all of their utility types for grants, scholarships, school and employees positions saying “we’ll test.”

“The minute individuals know that their declare to be Indigenous goes to be scrutinized … that alone goes to cease a whole lot of the fraud, I believe.”

Establishments should additionally introduce insurance policies establishing processes and penalties for potential fraudsters already embedded of their positions, she added.

It feels unfair, as a result of verification places the onus and scrutiny on Indigenous individuals, Teillet stated, however one thing should be finished to stem the tide of fraud.

Teillet’s report acknowledges considerations about establishing “identification police.”

For instance, fraudsters shouldn’t be confused with individuals searching for to reconnect with their Indigenous ancestry after dropping connection on account of authorities insurance policies.

Teillet’s report stated establishments ought to hearken to Indigenous Peoples when shifting past self-identification as the usual for establishing Indigenous identification, which may contain constructing relationships with communities, recognizing the data of elders and establishing Indigenous skilled panels.

This report by The Canadian Press was first revealed Jan. 25, 2023.

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