‘List of alleged suitors’ exposes alleged fake Native Americans
They come for white lies.
A list of alleged fake Native Americans began circulating in tribal and academic circles, accusing 195 people of falsely claiming an Indian identity for personal gain.
The “Alleged Suitors List” is the creation of Jacqueline Keeler, a Native American writer and activist who has spent years battling counterfeiters in politics and academia.
“Everyone on this list has made public statements through interviews, in authored books, documentaries, and even in congressional testimony. They also monetize all their claims. These are not private beliefs,” reads its introduction. “We will release the names and findings of anyone unrelated to the Native American tribe they claim in the United States.”
The list is a hodgepodge, with some entries containing detailed genealogical records to back up the claims, while others offer little beyond Keeler’s j’accuse. The list contains both those who are interrogated and those who have already been disowned by the tribes they claim to be affiliated with.
The list includes well-known imposters and suitors like Senator Elizabeth Warren and Johnny Depp, but also lesser-known media and arts figures.
Nadema Agard, a visual artist from New York who claims Lakota, Cherokee and Powhatan ancestry, is nominated. Keeler insists that Agard’s heritage goes back to Barbados and showed genealogical records which she said supported the claim.
Agard denied faking her ancestry and called Keeler’s claims a “witch hunt” and sent her own set of documents which she said supported her claim.
Many defendants sit in prestigious academic perches. Dartmouth Undergraduate Assistant Dean Susan Taffe Reed is appointed. In 2015, Reed was expelled from his position as director of the school’s Native American program for allegedly faking his membership in the nations of eastern Delaware.
Reed did not respond to The Post’s request for comment.
The issue of suitors made headlines last month when Canada’s top Indigenous health expert, Carrie Bourassa, was ousted after her claims of being a Métis nation were debunked. Researchers found that his people were actually from Eastern Europe and Russia.
Keeler, 53, a member of the Navajo Nation, was born in Cleveland to parents who moved there as part of a Bureau of Indian Affairs voluntary resettlement program in the mid-20th century.
“I am a registered citizen of the Navajo Nation. Complete Navajo from my mother. My dad is 5/8ths Yankton Dakota, but they had to pick a tribe,” she told critics in March. “My grandparents didn’t even speak English! Only Navajo!
Keeler said she was inspired to create the document this year in response to a New York Times op-ed by Claudia Lawrence – a freelance journalist who has since been accused of being a contender. The op-ed was a letter of advice to Deb Haaland, a Native American who had just been appointed to serve as President Biden’s interior secretary.
“Ms. Lawrence was unable to provide proof of Indigenous ancestry; she is not a registered member of any federally or state-recognized tribe,” a memo from the agency now reads. editor above the Times article. “Had the editors known there were questions about his connection to the Indigenous community, this essay would not have been published until those questions were resolved. .”
Laurent is on the list. The Native American Journalists Association has since terminated Lawrence’s membership.
“Ethnic fraud, especially against natives, is huge,” Keeler said. “There is an element of narcissism. There is a lack of empathy because they will retaliate against natives who try to expose their fraud.
Keeler said the list was a collaboration of many researchers, journalists and activists, but she was the one that brought those efforts together in one place.
Keeler says she and other researchers capped the list at 200 to help make the investigative workload manageable, but the actual number of suspected fraudsters is closer to 500.
Keeler’s list is also controversial within Indigenous communities. A parody website lists her and like-minded natives as “Karendians”.
Rhiana Yazzie, a Native American playwright, said she had mixed feelings about the list.
“The suitors are a major issue, but I am troubled that there is a list like this that seems arbitrary. I don’t know who is investigating and what the consequences are,” she said.