REPORT: Prominent Native American Hollywood Producer Faking Her Identity, Activists Say

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James Lynch Contributor
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Award-winning Hollywood producer Heather Rae is faking her long standing claims of Native American heritage, activists claim.

A watchdog group called the Tribal Alliance Against Frauds told the New York Post that Rae’s claims to Cherokee ancestry are fraudulent and should be dropped. The activists accuse Rae of profiting off “real American Indian voices and perspectives” by being a “Pretendian.” (RELATED: Cherokee Nation: Elizabeth Warren’s Claim To Tribe Is ‘Inappropriate’)

Rae serves on the Academy of Motion Pictures’ Indigenous Alliance and previously ran the Sundance Institute’s Native American program. She also works for Illuminative, a Native-women led social justice organization, as a “narrative change strategist,” the Post reported.

She claims “my mother was an Indian and my father was a cowboy” and multiple news reports say she has a Cherokee mother.  For example, Variety referred to Rae as Cherokee when she was awarded “top visionary” for producing the blockbuster film “Frozen River.” The picture won a Sundance and Independent Spirit award, and received an Oscar nomination.

Rae’s latest film, “Fancy Dance,” is a drama featuring a Native American woman who kidnaps her niece from white grandparents. It was partially funded by the Cherokee Nation and premiered at Sundance in January 2023.

Research from the Fake Indian Project shows Rae’s parents were both referred to as white in a 1969 divorce certificate, the Post reported. Her father’s ancestors arrived from England to Virginia and her mother’s ancestors lack Cherokee connections. Her maternal grandfather’s ancestors are all identified by records as being white.

Rae’s fourth great-grandparent, Jane E. Lannister, is linked to Cherokees by her father, who was said to be 1/8th Cherokee. If true, it would make Rae 1/2048th Indian, but the research shows the link to be misleading.

Lannister’s father Archibald won land in 1832 from the Cherokee land lottery designed to redistribute Native American settlements. The lottery was explicitly closed off to Cherokees, the blog says, proving Lannister was not Cherokee after all.

“Being an American Indian person is not just about who you claim to be, it is about who claims you,” Tribal Alliance Against Frauds director Lianna Costantino told the Post. “And it’s much more than just race. We are citizens of sovereign nations. Being an Indian is a legal, political distinction.”