Since Grey Owl a century in the past, folks of European descent have falsely claimed to be Indigenous for private acquire or a way of absolution, however one Métis authorized knowledgeable says it will 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,” mentioned Jean Teillet, a Vancouver-based lawyer who wrote a report for the College of Saskatchewan final yr exploring Indigenous determine fraud.
“What a tangled internet we weave, once we first follow to deceive… that is what occurs. They get twisted up in their very own tales,” mentioned Teillet, who’s the great-grandniece of famed Métis chief Louis Riel.
Teillet’s report examined the hurt brought on by Indigenous id fraud, outlined purple flags for recognizing potential deceit and urged measures to forestall it.
It got here within the wake of a collection of controversies over claims of Indigenous id by distinguished members of Canadian educational, literary and leisure circles in recent times. The report was launched in October, simply because the CBC printed an investigation into claims of Cree heritage by Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, a former decide, professor and BC consultant for kids and youth.
It is 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 Grey Owl, rising to fame as a author and environmentalist whereas residing in Canada within the Twenties. and ’30s.
Teillet mentioned she sees Indigenous id fraud as “the final word step in colonialism.”
She mentioned 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 feel there are individuals who use (false Indigenous id) to make themselves not really feel just like the colonizer, so you are not the dangerous man,” mentioned Teillet.
Her report cites College of Alberta scholar Kim TallBear, who calls false Indigenous claims “a closing act of theft in a protracted historical past of a number of layers and techniques of theft.”
Such id fraud is akin to violence, Teillet mentioned.
“It is not (violence) that leaves you with bodily bruises. But it surely bruises the neighborhood, since you’re taking. It is what colonialism does, it takes and it takes… That is what they’re doing after they’re assuming these sorts of identities.”
The time period “pretendian” making the rounds is intelligent, Teillet mentioned, “however, to my thoughts, ‘faux’ makes it too harmless … It makes it tough to see the hurt.”
Teillet mentioned id fraudsters play into stereotypes about Indigenous Peoples and get away with it partly as a result of Canadians usually aren’t educated concerning the range and complexity of Indigenous id and tradition throughout the nation.
“It’s no accident that Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond and Carrie Bourassa simply pulled out all these troops about trauma and addictions and violence within the household,” she mentioned, referring laterly to a former well being professor who resigned from the College of Saskatchewan amid questions on her Indigenous id final yr.
“That is what Canadians take into consideration Indigenous folks, so that they play us, proper?”
What Canadians ought to be asking, Teillet mentioned, is “why do (we) purchase into it?”
Along with reliance on stereotypes, Teillet’s report says purple flags embrace obscure claims, household secrets and techniques, shifting or conflicting tales, or reliance on DNA testing to search out some form of Indigenous ancestry relationship again a number of hundred years in the past.
Teillet is assured therecent revelations of false id are “simply the tip of the iceberg” in Canadian universities, authorities and different establishments, she provides.
“We’re ready for the following expose about some high-level authorities one that’s additionally a faux… As a result of they’re there, most likely by the a whole bunch, if not the hundreds.”
Canadian establishments usually lack and should set up procedures for verifying Indigenous id, Teillet mentioned, beginning with a “large signal” on all of their utility types for grants, scholarships, school and employees positions saying “we’ll verify.”
“The minute folks know that their declare to be Indigenous goes to be scrutinized… that alone goes to cease a variety of the fraud, I feel.”
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 folks, Teillet mentioned, however one thing have to be achieved to stem the tide of fraud.
Teillet’s report acknowledges issues about establishing “id police.”
For instance, fraudsters shouldn’t be confused with folks looking for to reconnect with their Indigenous ancestry after dropping connection on account of authorities insurance policies.
Teillet’s report mentioned establishments ought to take heed to Indigenous Peoples when shifting past self-identification as the usual for establishing Indigenous id, which may contain constructing relationships with communities, recognizing the data of elders and establishing Indigenous knowledgeable panels.
This report by The Canadian Press was first printed Jan. 25, 2023.
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