The academic world is facing another professor accused of misrepresenting her ethnic background. Andrea Smith, an associate professor at the University of California Riverside has written extensively on Native American subjects and long claimed Cherokee heritage. However, critics have said that Smith is no Cherokee — a scandal reminiscent of Elizabeth Warren scandal after her lifetime claim of being a Native American were debunked. Likewise a former University of Colorado professor and radical “Native American” writer Ward Churchill was found to have phony claims of being Native American. The question is what is the proper response of a school if an academic long claimed such a status, which comes with obvious benefits from schools seeking to diversify their faculties. On one hand, there can be a question of academic honestly while on the other academics can claim that they were acting in good faith on the basis of family accounts or misguided assumptions.
David Cornsilk, a Cherokee genealogist found no evidence of Cherokee bloodlines for Smith and added “Wannabes like Andrea use the myths of Cherokees hiding in the hills, passing for white or being saved by righteous whites, to perpetuate their lies.”
Cornsilk has said that Smith came to him repeatedly to establish Cherokee roots and that each time he told her that no such links existed. Critics say that Smith continued to represent herself as a Native American woman and a minority. Media reports state that various people confronted Smith about her claims to be a Cherokee in the past at academic conferences and appearances and claim that she promised to stop doing so.
Smith has not responded directly to reporters and it is not clear how much of the research on her background is being contested. She issued a somewhat encryptic statement that “I have consistently identified myself based on what I knew to be true” and that her belief was based on “what I knew to be true.” In a statement that drew comparisons to Rachel Dolezal, she added that she “will always be Cherokee.”
She also stated in a blog posting that “I have consistently identified myself based on what I knew to be true. My enrollment status does not impact my Cherokee identity or my continued commitment to organizing justice for Native communities.” It is not clear if Smith is still claiming to be an actual Cherokee and failed to show up on listings to some “enrollment” issue.
Smith received her Ph.D. in History of Consciousness at UC Santa Cruz in 2002 and her J.D. at UC Irvine School of Law in 2013. According to her faculty bio, she is the author of Native Americans and the Christian Right: The Gendered Politics of Unlikely Alliances and Conquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide. She is also the editor of The Revolution Will Not Be Funded: Beyond the Nonprofit Industrial Complex, and co-editor of The Color of Violence, The Incite! Anthology; Theorizing Native Studies,and Native Studies Keywords.
She is clearly identified as a Cherokee in this videotape:
The University has indicated that it will take no action on the allegation and that Smith remains a faculty member in good standing with the university. It further stated that ethnicity was not considered during her hiring. That later statement remains one of the most difficult issues for academics like Warren who listed herself as a minority for reporting purposes.
Source: Inside Higher Education