Another Faux Native American Is Outed

(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Emily Carr University of Art & Design is located in Vancouver, British Columbia. Its website features the following statement:

Emily Carr University is situated on unceded, traditional and ancestral territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish) and səl̓ilw̓ətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) peoples.


The school has scholarships specifically for native students, and the site features a page entitled “Aboriginal Gathering Place” along with a microsite specifically for Aboriginal students. It also had an impostor. The Vancouver Sun reports that Gina Adams, an artist and adjunct professor from the U.S., resigned last month.

Adams had originally claimed to be a descendant of a member of the Ojibwe-Lakota people/White Earth nation. Maclean’s magazine did some digging, only to discover that her grandfather was actually white. According to the Daily Mail, the Connecticut-born Adams said that the inspiration for her quilts came in visions from her ancestors, and the paper also reports that she was denied tribal membership because there was no provable ancestral link. This is particularly problematic since she was brought on board by the university as part of an initiative to hire more indigenous people, which included a vetting process.

The use of the term “cultural appropriation” has reached a point that any time a non-minority does something that had been done by a minority at some point, they are guilty of appropriation. Look at the flack Drew Barrymore took for posting a video of herself “frolicking” in the rain. According to at least one person on TikTok, Barrymore was guilty of appropriating frolicking from black men. Personally, I think that if you are above the age of nine and not a dolphin but you’re frolicking, you could probably find something better to do with your time.


But there is a case to be made against appropriation, to a certain degree. Native Americans have seen themselves lampooned in cartoons and inaccurately portrayed in popular culture and their traditional clothing turned into Halloween costumes. And not all of them find it humorous. I learned that reality the hard way when I married into a native family. My in-laws were active on the pow wow circuit, and I decided to try my hand at dancing. It wasn’t so much that I was a “wannabe” (the term for non-Indians who try to be a part of the culture) as much as I was just trying to be a part of the family and spend time with my father-in-law. I’ve never claimed to be Native American and used to joke that I was a member of the Northern White Boy Tribe.

It was decided that I would be a Southern Straight dancer, mainly since the regalia did not require the use of raptor feathers, which I as a white person am forbidden by law to possess.

For the most part, no one particularly cared, especially the locals. But at one pow wow, as it was time to line up for the grand entry, I was approached by a tribal member from out of the area who was very upset that I was wearing regalia and participating in an activity that was not mine by birthright. And I can understand that. He had no way of knowing that I was part of a tribal family, no matter the color of my skin, and for all he knew, I was just a hobbyist. Or a wannabe.


Maybe Adams was emboldened by the fact that Elizabeth Warren, who was caught in a similar lie, never suffered any real consequences for her dishonesty. Perhaps she wanted to cash in on the benefits of being a minority and thought that her story could never be disproven. Or maybe it was cultural envy. It could well be that Adams was underwhelmed or even ashamed by her own heritage and decided it was time to find a new identity. After all, we live in an age in which whiteness is by default associated with rape, murder, colonization, and oppression, despite the fact that those things have been practiced by cultures all over the world for centuries. Instead of avarice, her fault may be the result of self-imposed shame and virtue signaling.

If that is the case, it is unfortunate, since we should be at a place where everyone can have pride in who they are. Of course, we aren’t in that place and probably won’t be for a while. But we should be.


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