Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Why do people keep claiming Indigenous heritage?

Vianne Timmons is just the latest of many high-profile Canadians who, for reasons that entirely escape me, have erroneously or fraudulently claimed Indigenous heritage.

Ms. Timmons, who is president of Memorial University in Newfoundland, is taking a leave of absence from her job while the allegations of "cultural fraud" are sorted out.

I am still not understanding what is the big attraction of such a claim for these political and artistic types. Why would they risk being publicly outed as liars and frauds for such an apparently insubstantial and nebulous potential benefit. What do they get out of being looked on as Indigenous? Street credibility? Respect? Tax breaks? I don't really get it.

There again, neither do I get why the Indigenous community - or at least the more radical and litigious elements within it: I shouldn't think the regular folks really care - are so keen to disown these high-powered, influential, and often strongly pro-Indigenous individuals. Many of the people called out by Indigenous activists as frauds - all the way back to Grey Owl - have spent decades fighting for Indigenous rights and raising the profile of First Nations in politics and the arts. Why would they not just accept them with open arms when it is in their interests to do so? It seems a bit of a Pyrrhic victory of principle over pragmatism. 

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