Several American Indians have accused a new “Native American Studies” professor of faking her ethnicity, using data from U.S. census records and ancestry websites.
American Indians from FakeIndians, a blog dedicated to unmasking fake American Indians, asserted Gina Stuart-Richard, who advertises herself as an American Indian and has been hired by the University of Oklahoma to teach Native American Studies, is actually white, reported The College Fix Monday.
Stuart-Richard, who will begin teaching at OU in fall 2017 and currently teaches Native American Studies at Montana State University, markets herself as “Choctaw” and “a Native from Oklahoma” on her MSU profile. While the profile links to the professor’s CV, which FakeIndians alleges includes the line “Mississippi Choctaw,” the link would not load at time of publication.
The site traced Stuart-Richard’s ancestry back to Mary Ann Sheffield Dunn, whom it claims is the professor’s “6x great grandmother.”
“By claiming heritage as Mississippi Choctaw, she is implying that she is an enrolled member of the tribe,” stated the site. “For enrollment [in Mississippi Choctaw], at least a ‘50% quantum degree of Choctaw blood is required,” the website wrote, linking to the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians homepage.
Stuart-Richard insisted that while FakeIndians has spread “false information,” she has not sued, in a conversation with OU Daily. She clarified that she is not enrolled as a member of the Mississippi Choctaws, but that she is ancestrally connected to them and uses it on her resume.
Amanda Cobb-Greetham, chair of OU’s Native American Studies department, said that while the department does not believe the accusation made against the professor, it would be serious if true.
“It would have quite an impact,” said Cobb-Greetham. “This is serious for all of us in Native American studies because, for many of us, it is very personal. Also, because it is a subject area within our field, honesty and ethics are critical.”
The department chair went on to state that people could identify as American Indian not just through race/ancestry, but also through culture and politics, for example, by enrollment in the tribe.
“Race is a fiction of our imagination, and I underscore pure because we are the composite of many different racial groups or peoples,” said George Henderson, director of human relations at OU, to OU Daily. “There are no pure races, but there are pure racists. People who believe in the fiction of race and believe that they are superior to others in that fictional belief.”
“Tribal affiliation is not and has never been a requirement for a faculty position in the Department of Native American Studies,” said Rowdy Gilbert, OU’s senior vice president for public affairs, to The Daily Caller News Foundation. “Matters relating to tribal identity are particular to individual scholars and their relationships to the communities with whom they work. As an equal opportunity employer, the University of Oklahoma is prohibited from making inquiries regarding the race, ethnicity or national origin of any candidate for a faculty position.”
Stuart-Richard received over $100,000 in scholarships, though it is unclear whether she identified as Choctaw when applying for the money.
TheDCNF reached out to the professor but received no comment in time for publication.
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