The co-founder of a queer indigenous art collective in Wisconsin who claimed to be Native American has apologized amid allegations that she is actually white.
Kay LeClaire, who also goes by the name Nibiiwakamigkwe and has previously gone by the name Katie Le Claire, currently identifies as “two-spirit,” a term used by some indigenous people to describe a non-binary gender identity, the Daily Mail reported. A genealogy hobbyist posting under the name AdvancedSmite made the accusations on a forum hosted by New Age Frauds & Plastic Shamans, a group that exposes attempts to appropriate and profit from Native identity and spirituality.
AdvancedSmite wrote on Nov. 26 that “publicly available information refutes [N]ibiiwakamigkwe’s claims” of Native descent and that LeClaire’s “[p]hysical appearance has drastically changed from 2012 to 2022 – hair and eyebrows changed from dark blonde/light brown to black, skin tone appears darker.”
LeClaire has apparently claimed several identities, including Métis, Oneida, Anishinaabe, Haudenosaunee, Cuban and Jewish heritage since 2017, Madison365 reported. LeClaire even had a seat on the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Task Force, which focuses on fighting domestic violence, homicide, human trafficking, and abductions of Indigenous women, per Madison365.
Kay LeClaire went by an Ojibwe spirit name, spoke and performed at Native American events, led the local Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women movement, got grants & fellowships, sold leather bags and birch baskets. Turns out, it was all based on lies. https://t.co/jjdR0gYEod
— Madison365 (@madison_365) January 3, 2023
The fabricated identity also earned LeClaire a slew of paid work and educational opportunities, as well as helping LeClaire build a platform of trust within the community, including a paid residency at the University of Wisconsin in the summer of 2018, the outlet added.
“I am sorry,” LeClaire wrote in a statement to Madison365. “A lot of information has come to my attention since late December. I am still processing it all and do not yet know how to respond adequately. What I can do now is offer change. Moving forward, my efforts will be towards reducing harm by following the directions provided by Native community members and community-specified proxies.” (RELATED: ‘Manipulated And Groomed’: Retired Green Beret Explains Why So Many Women Go Missing)
According to the statement, LeClaire is no longer using an Ojibwe name and has stepped away from all community-related work. “Any culturally related items I hold are being redistributed back in community, either to the original makers and gift-givers when possible or elsewhere as determined by community members. Thank you,” LeClaire concluded.