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. “The natives of New England were instrumental in helping the new arrivals survive their first years.”

    Reason for being helpful and allowing the settlement to survive: The local Wampanoag tribe wanted the English guns to fight the Narragansett.

  2. The right of claim is quite simple. If you possess a land and no one makes a claim to the contrary it’s yours. However, lacking that opportunity, military might creates land claims so to the victor go the spoils.

  3. Paul, “the Indians greeting of the Vikings consisted of firing arrows at them and trying to kill them. It was not a friendly greeting. This happened to other groups until the end of the Indian Wars.”

    Where did you get this information about the Vikings? As to later groups, Columbus and the earliest French and English did not get an antagonistic greeting. Columbus executed genocide during his visits. The natives of New England were instrumental in helping the new arrivals survive their first years. The relationship between the natives and the new (undocumented) immigrants was reasonably cordial but the second and third generations of the immigrants were bitten by greed and became hostile to the natives who responded in self-defense.

    1. bettykath – try the Viking Sagas. And when Columbus returned from Spain after his first voyage, the Indians had wiped out all his remaining crew.

  4. Paul C. Schulte

    Sorry you seem to be hung up on the form of greeting. Whether it was cordial or hostile is of no import to the point. I guess I did not speak plainly enough for you. Let me

    1. Nancy in Chickasaw Country – you seem to have ended your sentence early.

      1. Paul C. Schulte

        First reply vanished – I know not where. I sent another immediately.

  5. forgotwhoiam

    Are you taking us back to Adam and Eve and discounting all lineage? I believe the vast majority of people in this country would agree the Indians greeted those who came later – the Vikings, the English, the Scots, the Irish, the Dutch, the Germans, and so on. Many people have no clue as to the exact information on there ancestors past their great grand father – if they have that. Those who care, search ancestry records. Casual discussion of what one remembers Grandpa or Grandma saying is fine for casual conversation. However, if one is going to base their credentials on their lineage, then they should be forced to prove it. I have no use for those who make claims but have no proof and think their word is good enough. Balterdash! People like Warren, Smith, Ward Churchill received advantages because of their claim. I consider them less than honest.

    1. Nancy in Chickasaw Country – the Indians greeting of the Vikings consisted of firing arrows at them and trying to kill them. It was not a friendly greeting. This happened to other groups until the end of the Indian Wars.

  6. Understanding that Indians in the Americas are native Asians who traversed the Alaskan Land Bridge as nomads and are distinctly not native to America, Canada, Mexico, Patagonia or any other reasonably, customarily and legally established country on either the North American or South American continent, it is an egregious error and insult to refer to them as “Americans” knowing that America did not exist until 1789, long after Asian migration.

    It is very difficult, in deed, to be a milquetoast, teary eyed, bleeding-heart liberal these days, isn’t it?

    “Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.” – Sir Walter Scott

  7. Nancy in Chickasaw,
    Well said, we are dividing this country into bits and pieces. No more “give me’s.” Get a job on your skills and talents. Go to school and get loans if your serious about an education.

  8. I wonder if she went to college on Indian benefits, such as grants for Native American’s? Hmmmm…I wonder if Elizabeth Warren also had her college tuition paid for that way too?????

    1. Gigi D

      I have never heard of Warren using claims of heritage to reduce college tuition. She entered under grad in the 60s. That was not a time for big minority benefits. They came later. Where she used her “heritage” was on a list of minority professors (misremember the name) in the 80s and 90s. During this pre-internet time, this list was regularly reviewed by universities looking for minority professors. It is alleged she was hired by both Penn and Harvard as a minority.

  9. White Bostonian, “My ancestors came over on the Mayflower.”

    Black Bostonian, “My ancestors came over on the Memphis.”

  10. I. Annie,

    Thank you for your response. I just got back from the county fair. There was a girl there, real sexy too. Martina McBride. Great show. I just love girls.

    Just to review, limit the scope and focus like a laser:

    Your answer was NO.

    Is that correct?

  11. Nancy in Chickasaw Country

    I agree. Let’s do all of that without affirmative action, welfare, quotas, social services, forced busing, food stamps, “Fair Housing” (which is actually “Unfair” and unconstitutional), rent control, public housing, “affordable housing,” HUD, HHS, Obamacare, FHA, HAMP, HARP, Medicaid, Social Security, “civil rights,” Education, Labor, no government unions, no teachers unions, no “comparable pay,” etc.

    Let’s just do like they do on Jeopardy. You try. You win. You lose. Everybody’s happy.

    How’s that sound? OK?

  12. has DNA testing for about $90 bucks. Her and Warren should take the test, if they want to prove something to the naysayers.

    Most family came here from Wales back in 1905, and became US citizens the legal way. One side came from the Yuchi tribe, but I don’t go around trying to claim money it an advantage to get hired. Let them do the DNA.

  13. One says: “Something creepy about someone whose job it is to check bloodlines”. Interesting reaction. I find it quite creepy to present oneself as a race or ethnicity one is not. Another says: “This women has been helping others by Identifying as a Cherokee, Why has it become popular to question peoples ethnicity?” Who is she helping by lying? The person states: “Maybe the USA needs to STOP focusing on individuals Ethnicity so much. ” True, but the emphasis is put on by those pimping for each group and the American government.

    People should be proud and celebrate their heritage. We should know how the different peoples have contributed to and help build us into this wonderful country – even if it does have warts. We are a team. We have become too polarized. Too much is either all or nothing. Know who you are and be proud of your ancestors, wherever they are from, have given you American citizenship. We can celebrate the heritage of our ancestors while we celebrate our American heritage.

  14. Lyrics to I’m A Soul Man Comin’ to ya on a dusty road

    Good lovin’ I got a truck load
    And when you get it you got something
    So don’t worry cause I’m coming

    I’m a soul man
    I’m a soul man
    I’m a soul man
    I’m a soul man

    Got what I got the hard way
    And I’ll make it better each and every day
    So honey don’t you fret
    Cause you ain’t seen nothing yet

    I’m a soul man
    I’m a soul man
    Play it Steve!
    I’m a soul man
    I’m a soul man

    I was brought up on a side street
    I learned how to love before I could eat
    I was educated from good stock
    When I start lovin’ I just can’t stop

    I’m a soul man
    I’m a soul man
    I’m a soul man
    I’m a soul man

    Well grab the rope and I’ll pull you in
    Give you hope and be your only boyfriend
    Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

    I’m a soul man
    I’m a soul man
    You’re a soul man
    I’m a soul man
    I’m a soul man
    I’m a soul man

  15. In my world, there exists the body, the mind, the soul, and the spirit. Your spirit is the measurable energy inside and outside your body. It moves through your body through the nervous system and affects your entire body. Energy can’t be created or destroyed, it exists forever. When the body dies, so does your mind but your soul continues with your spirit (energy). However, the soul doesn’t last forever but the spirit does.

    Five Reasons You Won’t Die by Robert Lanza, M.D.

  16. Barking, I have no idea if people actually do have souls in all reality. I’d like to believe they do, but I guess we won’t find out until after we’re dead. I think sometimes people ( myself included) use the word “soul” to describe a person’s innermost humanity, or lack of it

  17. Souls. Someone was arguing about “souls”. I am curious. If one does an autopsy where does one find the “soul”? Does the soul leave the body when a person is dead and hence can not be found in the autopsy? How about when they operate on living people– have they ever found a soul?

    If the soul is something which makes people honest or religious or makes one adhere to a faith then when does a dishonest person or a atheist reveal their no soul status?
    Do Indians have souls? Baptists? Muslims? Atheists?

  18. The woman would stop a clock….if ugly were a virtue, she would be canonized,,,I have used this UC Riverside campus library a numberof times, in fact, I am friends with the Entomology Dept., all of em’!

  19. This kind of stuff is inconsequential, but it is sooo much fun to see one of these liberal types end up with real egg on their face. This is almost as funny as Sister Rachel.

    Plus, I imagine the real redskins are fed up with idiot whiteskins trying to muscle in on the tribes’ business.

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter .

  20. Bonnie, so right, these threads about these minor infractions when the world is going to hades, are shallow and inconsequential.

    1. Inga – it is the Broken Window approach. You don’t want people taking advantage of a program that was designed for others. And I speak for all my red brothers here!

      1. Didn’t you read the article Paul. She gained no advantage fro making the claim.

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