“I am a white person who has incorrectly identified as Native my whole life, based on incomplete information,”Elizabeth Hoover, US professor
The recent exposure of yet another individual posing as an Indigenous person, or a “Pretendian” in this specific case, has sparked renewed debate about the need for a crackdown on Indigenous identity fraud worldwide.
Elizabeth Hoover, a US professor, recently came forward and admitted she had no Native American heritage after claiming it her “whole life” and benefiting from her self-identified Indigenous background.
But the damage had already been done, as Hoover had received academic fellowships, opportunities, and material benefits that may have been intended for actual Native scholars.
And the impact of Indigenous identity fraud goes beyond just financial gain for individuals.
It also has non-tangible costs, particularly in terms of closing the disparity gap initiatives.
Funding and opportunities meant for Indigenous communities and individuals are often diverted to non-Indigenous individuals who falsely claim Indigenous heritage.
So, what can be done about this issue?
Fraud is a growing problem in many parts of the world, and Indigenous identity fraud is no exception. With the recent exposure of yet another Pretendian who falsely claimed to have Indigenous heritage, it’s become clear that action needs to be taken to address this issue.
However, any crackdown on Indigenous identity fraud must be done in a culturally appropriate manner, as many First Nations and Indigenous people don’t accept the Western blood quantum ideology.
Blood quantum – how much aboriginal blood to claim benefits?
The blood quantum way to measure Indigenous identity is a colonial construct that has been forced onto Indigenous communities. It is a Western idea that is used to define Indigenous identity based on the percentage of Indigenous ancestry a person has and this system of measurement has been used to exclude many Indigenous peoples who do not meet the threshold required by the colonisers.
Moreover, it is not a culturally appropriate method of measuring Indigenous identity because many Indigenous cultures do not view identity solely based on ancestry.
Instead, Indigenous identity is often tied to community, culture and relationships with the land and ancestors. The blood quantum system erases these important cultural markers of identity, which is harmful to Indigenous peoples and their communities.
Furthermore, the blood quantum system perpetuates the colonial myth that Indigenous peoples are a dying race, and it is often used to limit Indigenous peoples’ access to land, resources, and services. It also creates a division between Indigenous peoples who are considered “full-blooded” and those who are not, leading to discrimination within Indigenous communities themselves.
The use of blood quantum to measure Indigenous identity is wrong and harmful, and there is a need to decolonise and recognise the diversity of Indigenous identities based on cultural markers rather than colonial constructs.
This all perpetuates the disparity gap and undermines the work of initiatives aimed at closing that gap.
Anyways, Indigenous identity fraud isn’t the only type of fraud that’s becoming increasingly prevalent. Scam emails and text messages are also on the rise, targeting vulnerable individuals and causing financial and emotional harm.
It’s time for the government to take a stand and protect its citizens from these fraudulent activities, whether they are of the Indigenous community or not.
But any action taken against Indigenous fraud must be done in a culturally sensitive way that respects the values and beliefs of all individuals involved. Only then can we ensure that justice is served and that vulnerable communities are protected from the harmful effects of fraud.
Top reasons why Aboriginal identity fraud can be harmful to the community:
- Undermines the credibility of Indigenous people: Aboriginal identity fraud can damage the trust that Indigenous communities have built with the wider society. It can make it harder for people to believe the stories and experiences of real Indigenous people, which can lead to a lack of support for Indigenous causes and issues.
- Reduces opportunities for genuine Indigenous people: Aboriginal identity fraud can result in people who are not genuinely Indigenous receiving opportunities that should be reserved for Indigenous people. For example, scholarships, jobs, and leadership positions that are designated for Indigenous people may end up going to someone who is not Indigenous, which reduces the number of opportunities available for real Indigenous people.
- Perpetuates stereotypes and misconceptions: Aboriginal identity fraud can reinforce stereotypes and misconceptions about Indigenous people. For example, if someone pretends to be Indigenous and is later exposed, it can create the impression that Indigenous people are trying to take advantage of special privileges. This can lead to resentment and division between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.
- Erases the experiences and struggles of Indigenous people: Aboriginal identity fraud can erase the experiences and struggles of real Indigenous people. If someone who is not Indigenous is claiming to have experienced discrimination or trauma because of their Indigenous identity, it can trivialize the very real experiences of Indigenous people who have faced discrimination and trauma because of their identity.
- Undermines efforts to address historical injustices: Aboriginal identity fraud can make it harder to address historical injustices that have been committed against Indigenous people. If someone who is not Indigenous is claiming to have experienced the same injustices, it can make it seem as if the injustices were not really that bad or were not specifically directed at Indigenous people. This can make it harder to build support for efforts to address the injustices.