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. I. Annie … yes, I am aware of that fact. Armed women don’t bother me, in fact they usually have great judgement about when to fire and when to not. Give me an armed Corpsman or Corpswoman any day over a bureaucrat. 🙂

  2. All that said, it would be very awkward to arm USMC personnel in dress uniforms or the recruiting uniforms of dress blue pants and kahki blouses, becasue the holsters are the old flap versions with a pistol carried un-cocked and no round in the chamber, requiring the user to rack the slide for the first shot. Still, better than nothing. This is one reason I favor the FNX (or H&K) versions with de-cockers, that allow a double action firing once the safety is released. Be a long time before the military changes to that configuration.

  3. I’m sure you probably realize this Aridog, but others may not. The females of all branches in Leatherneck were equally armed.

  4. I. Annie …that USMC & Leatherneck others always armed fact is what saved Camp Bastion. The AF personnel weren’t so well equipped….or trained to defend. IIRC correctly the USMC were mostly avaiation people, and yet they managed to defend a much larger camp than Leatherneck. It was a close call and success was due to the USMC and the Navy personnel…including those supported by your kid. Nothing will ever deter my rspect for those who go out and make a difference and salvage what is left after a battle is fought.

    For well over 40 years I’ve been an opponenet of disarming troops in any dangerous situation or location, anywhere…and as I have said, I was subject to it at times…and we almost always cheated. The Generals had their MP’s…we had nothing but ourselves. I tend to respect ranks up to Lt Col…batallion commanders who have to get in the dirt with everyone else.


    This was why the Marines attending the meeting were asked to disarm.

    “A senior defense official told CNN that Gurganus made the decision to have all coalition troops disarm on Tuesday, but “the order never got passed down the line to the individual units. So, unfortunately, it wasn’t until all the Marines were sitting down Wednesday that anyone realized what the general really wanted. It looked bad. But at that point they needed to comply with the order.

    Several Marines said they had never seen a situation like this, although they do not believe the decision resulted from any security concerns. The senior defense official said Gurganus was under orders to make partnership a priority, and he felt that “it wouldn’t be right to have armed Marines sitting next to unarmed Afghan soldiers. He wants to promote the mission of partnership.””

  6. Aridog at Camp Leatherneck and Camp Bastion the Marines, Corpsman and Seabees were armed everywhere they went, to the latrine, to the mess hall, to their places of work. They carried a hand gun AND a rifle at all times. That was the policy.

  7. Couple of comments:

    1. Ref: I. Annie : It is a mistake to blame the Executive Office (only) for disarmed military members here and abroad. Not saying you did, but the idea is there. Not long ago a Secretary of Defense visited Afghanistan to address the Marines stationed there…and all were oredered to stack arms before entering the address facility. The idea of disarmed Soldiers and Marines first comes from the higher military heirarchy…one General said as much recently when the subject came up…that he favored the disarmament. In short the Generals don’t trust the men & women they command…why is that? They trained them. Your kid had a taste of it at Camp Bastion, where if the Marines she was with, inside Camp Leatherneck inside Bastion, hadn’t scrambled to arm up and fight back the base would have fallen. I’ve been thusly disarmed more than once in my career. Some of those times we cheated by carry under our fatgue blouses.

    2. Ref: Bonnie: There are fair number blue eyed Arabs in my neighborhood. Red hair now and then too. So you are right. From my perspective I look for character, not skin, eye, or hair color or assumptions about someone’s pedigree. My time in the west, recently Montana brought the issues between the Crow and the Souix/Cheyene to mind and I want to learn more about that issue. Where Custer fought the Souix was Crow country. Another interesting point of history was the migration of the Comanche’s from the hills of Wyoming, as essentially hunter gatherers, to the plains of Comancheria once they adapted and adopted the horse and became splendid cavalry. “Empire of the Summer Moon” is anexcellant book on the subject, covering it all from beginning to end with the last leader being Quanna Parker, a half breed but Comanche through and through. Euro-White expansionists avoided Comancheria whenever they could, including the cattle drives to Montana by Nelson Story and others…some depeicted in “Lonesome Dove”.

  8. @ Paul

    I may have a more sanitized version of Native American history but I am well aware that history is intentionally fraught with intentional errors so it wouldn’t surprise me.

    Like I always say: “Everything we think we know, is a lie.”

    1. Neo – it is all Nathaniel Hawthorne’s fault. He is the one who created “The Noble Savage.”

  9. I would not want to speak for any other group but I’m certain the Native American Indian didn’t call this country “America”, that is European. Apparently, the Native American Indian had no concept of “owning land” but the Europeans sure did.

    1. Neo – the Indians, like the Irish, believed in the communal ownership of land. And Indians tried to take land from other tribes before the Europeans landed here and after. Indian tribes eradicated other Indian tribes and groups of Europeans.

  10. Nancy in Chickasaw Country

    It is impossible for Indians to be native Americans because when they came here, there was no CONCEPT of America.

    Secondly, Indians hated Americans and fought wars with them. You insult Indians by calling them Americans.

    Finally and definitively, Indians on this continent are NATIVE TO ASIA by DNA.

    Let’s call them “Native Asians.”

    They own nothing because they never claimed, surveyed, transacted or recorded ownership of any real property.

    They own only their personal “moveable” property because they were nomadic.

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