With the increasing number of non-Indigenous people claiming Indigenous ancestry, in particular authors such as Joseph Boyden, subject of the most recent controversy, and academic Andrea Smith, as well as many others foremost intellectuals and professional Indian experts, it’s critical that we understand the reasons behind these misrepresentations, and find reasonable ways to address and resolve these incidents from happening further.
Veronica Faust, Ph.D., and noted ethnologist/entomologist, whose thesis on pretendian behavioral science from the University of Chicanery, offered the following insights on this near-epidemic phenomena: “One way to respond to charlatan controversies and identify instances of ethnic fraud is to look to other species and analyze the ways that they mitigate these kinds of imposter issues. Animals, specifically insect species, have the same instincts for survival as we do. Animals exist alongside predators and prey, must negotiate complex economies ensuring their survival, and the survival of their young, and have developed highly evolved strategies to camouflage themselves by blending in with their environments, just like we do!”
The following examples are excerpts from Dr. Faust’s groundbreaking study titled: “Things Psuedo-Native Authors Have Claimed To Be But Actually Are Not.”
The Stick Insect
Some ways that pseudo-Indigenous authors have sought to capitalize on their careers is to disguise themselves as things that they are not. The biggest culprit is the stick insect—also referred to as walking sticks, or stick-bugs. Fraudulent Indigenous authors have acquired esteemed literary awards by camouflaging themselves as stick insects, and mimicking branches and leaves. When necessary they're masters in the art of invisibility, while at the same time adapting to their environments in ingenious ways. Stick insects are known to adapt splendidly in unfamiliar terrains such as Indigenous Literary Conferences. Here they perform particularly well in panel and audience environments by remaining absolutely stationary, which enhances their disguise. One should exercise extreme caution when introduced to the stick insect due to their voracious appetites. Stick insects are known to bite the heads off of species in competition for necessary resources such as literary prizes and fellowships, and when provoked will devour a rival’s head whole.
Included among the usual suspects is the chameleon. The Chameleon’s favorite habitat is the artist’s colony, or writer’s residency. Here they’ve been known to thrive as their unique abilities of deception adapt beautifully to a variety of environments such as desert, mountain, or seascape. Their everyday skin color, a light khaki, keeps them hidden from enemies who would otherwise identify and call them out, but will change to whatever shade is necessary given the situation. They are extremely crafty when socializing at cocktail mixers, utilizing their ability to change color as surroundings shift. The chameleon/Native fraud can blend into the brightly colored tablecloths or bar stools making it easier for them to prey upon unwitting directors of a reputable publishing houses, or editors of endowed literary journals. They can manipulate with ease and will illicit pity by relaying woeful tales of disenfranchisement and oppression.
Look for Dr. Faust’s other books “I’m Not An Actual Native Author But I Play One On TV,” and “Checking the ‘It’s Complicated’ Box for Culture and/or Ethnicity.”
Tiffany Midge is an assistant poetry editor at The Rumpus, and an award-winning author of “The Woman Who Married a Bear.” Her work is featured in McSweeney's, The Rumpus, Okey-Pankey, The Butter, Waxwing, and Moss. She is Hunkpapa Lakota. Follow her on Twitter @TiffanyMidge