University of California Professor Under Fire After Lifelong Claims Of Being Cherokee Are Challenged

2A90845700000578-0-image-a-7_1436998678002SequoyahThe 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

198 thoughts on “University of California Professor Under Fire After Lifelong Claims Of Being Cherokee Are Challenged”

  1. In Indian Country, we have always had a joke that all you had to do was rub shoulders with a Cherokee and you became a member. Since there are very few FBIs (full-blooded Indians), the blood quantum does not always come through in the person who is an American Indian. For most of us these days, the Mendel Genetic Laws usually dominate. My blood quantum of American Indian blood is 7/8ths. Since there is white man blood running through our family veins, I am an example of one of the Mendel Genetic Laws about if there is blue eyes somewhere then it is possible for two brown-eyed people of have children and one in four will have blues eyes. I have three siblings with two brown-eyed parents both American Indian. I have blue eyes while the others all have brown eyes. Additionally, one of my siblings is my twin sister. Throughout our lives, we were constantly told that we were liars when we told people we were twins (we are fraternal twins–two separate eggs fertilized). At the ripe old age of 10, my sister and I were sent to the principal’s office for lying about being twins. I burst into tears and asked the principal, “Why would my mother lie about such a thing?” (Also, we were full term and very healthy twins weighing approximately 15 lbs. together.) My Mom showed up at school and informed the principal that yes, we were twins which is why their records show we have the save birthday. So, I ask why shouldn’t most us of believe any and all old family stories? What is wrong with that. Like I.Annie, I believe this is much ado about nothing. There are more urgent problems that need our attention.

    1. Bonnie – my grandfather used to tell a family story that our great-grandfather (his father-in-law) was a murderer. Nobody believed him until my uncle did the family genealogy. Yes, he was a cold-blooded murdered, but was found not guilty.

  2. LOL! Great flick. “I picked the wrong day to give up crystal meth.”

  3. Ari, Chief Consort is Pogo and he surely is jesting. I saw a piece on the news of a K-9 Belgian Malinois having to be put down for attacking his handler.

  4. Oh, I suppose I should do an Irish Poem for our poor misguided faux Cherokee:

    Andrea’s Fault???
    An Irish Poem by Squeeky Fromm

    There was a professor named Smith.
    Whose ancestry was but a myth!
    Sooo, did the school hire,
    A white forked-tongue liar?
    They asked her, but she took the fifth!

    Squeeky Fromm
    Giro Reporter

  5. Chief Consort … said…

    … some of the tightest gun regulations in the US are in Chicago and New York City, and one rarely hears of gun violence there.

    Surely you jest. Chicago has one of the highest gun violence rates in the nation…in a place it is virtually near impossible to purchase a gun legally.

  6. And Aridog, I think you’re right, unarmed military members, their families and veterans are sitting ducks. THAT has to change.

  7. For the record, I’d like it if Professor Turley was to post a piece on the shootings today…then discussion would not be “off topic” … lacking that, it has to be added elsewhere…it most certainly deserves discussion.

  8. Aridog, I think you misunderstood me. I didn’t indicate I thought this shooter was a Christian. I said that in the recent past a white Christian heterosexual shot up a bible study group in a black church. I don’t doubt THIS shooter was a radicalized Islamist.

  9. I suppose unusual for me once again, but I have to credit I. Annie for her toning down the commentary, more often than not, and actually saying things worth consideration. I notice because we have a long distory and much of it acrimonious…much improved today by both of us I hope.

    She’s wrong, I suspect, on the ethicity of the Marine shooter…his name doesn’t sound too white bread to me. Not many Christian Arab shooters are Christian here or there. I get her stimulus due to her daugher, who was in (provable fact) in Camp Leatherneck, as a front line Corpsman, inside Camp Bastion, and if it were not for her Marines cohorts, AFB Bastion would have fallen. Otherwise, lacking a thread to comment on, the remark about the wanton deaths today of US Marines is worth while and not really a total distraction. I too find the shootings threatening, given where I live and virtually everyone here’s knowledge of my Army affiilation…although mostly Shia…a loon Sunni sleeper here could make me or some one like me a target. I can handle that…I watch faces carefully when I smile at them and pay attention to the situation I am in at any time. This attack on uniforms and badges is rapidly going out of control.

  10. You Pogo, not your “Chief” persona believes that how one votes is more important than anything else in life. Look in that mirror Pogo.

  11. That’s enlightening Pogo, but I’m a Christian Presbyterian. I believe in souls and I even believe some “Christian” conservatives will probably go to hell.

  12. I miss JAG even a little more now. I miss SWM. You know, the sane liberal women.

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