A headline Jan. 24 in the New York Post trumpeted: “‘Native American’ novelist praised by GMA, NYT accused of being a ‘Pretendian.’”
It tells the story of Erika Wurth, an English professor at Western Illinois University, whose claims to Native American ancestry have been meticulously debunked by activists and researchers even as the scholar maintains her claims.
“Wurth has lectured widely and has mined Native American traditions and folk tales in her seven books,” including most recently “White Horse,” a Book of the Month Club pick in November and featured on a list of Good Housekeeping’s best books by Native writers, the Post reported.
AncestorStealing, a website that has researched and outed a parade of alleged fake Indians, argues it’s done for notoriety, profit and gain: “It’s all about the money. Wurth has profited greatly from claiming this ‘Native’ background.”
Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren was ahead of her time when she wrongly claimed to be Native American to get ahead at Harvard University in the 1990s — a string of white scholars in the last several years have all done the same at their respective universities.
There’s men in the mix, but many women. The trend expands beyond academia to artists and others, but academia appears to be ground zero. It’s become so common in recent years terms such as “pretendians” and “fauxcahontas” have now been coined.
In recent years The College Fix has reported on:
• UC Berkeley Professor Elizabeth Hoover, who admitted in October 2022 she has no proof of Native American ancestry after building her academic reputation on the claim.
• Emily Carr University Professor Gina Adams, hired for her indigenous background and featured in a Brooklyn Museum indigenous artist exhibition, who was revealed as white by internet sleuths.
• University of California Riverside Professor Andrea Smith, who lied about being Cherokee and continued to work at the school after the falsity was discovered.
• Former Vanderbilt neuroscientist BethAnn McLaughlin, who created a fake Twitter account run by an nonexistent indigenous professor of science at Arizona State University. The false Twitter account occasionally opposed critics of McLaughlin, founder of the #MeTooSTEM movement, before being uncovered.
According to AncestorStealing, this is just the tip of the iceberg.
The common thread in these cases is women who have advanced in a variety of ways based on a false or unprovable identification as indigenous.
“It’s the terrible confluence of leftist hatred and identitarianism that defines the rise of the ‘Fauxcahontas,’ or the white woman who claims Native American ancestry for social advancement,” wrote Douglas Blair in a Jan. 6 commentary piece for the Daily Signal.
“The Left constantly claims to advocate for victims, the downtrodden, and the oppressed. But the Fauxcahontas is the inevitable result of myopic focus on victimhood; namely, people who aren’t victims claiming to be victims to get ahead,” Blair wrote in his piece, headlined “The Rise of the ‘Fauxcahontas.’”
Blair, a producer with “O’Connor Tonight” on the Salem News Channel, argued that “As much as the Left would like to pretend that there’s no benefits to feigning American Indian heritage, the numbers tell a different story.”
He cited an NPR report that “the number of people who identify as Native American on the U.S. census has soared in recent years by 86% from 2010 to 2020.”
And a 2021 survey conducted by Intelligent found that 34 percent of white Americans who applied to higher institutions said they lied about being a racial minority.
Forty-eight percent of those who lied claimed to be Native American, according to the survey.
But Native Americans only make up about two percent of the U.S. population.
Asked to weigh in on the students who falsify their ancestry, conservative Manhattan Institute scholar and best-selling author Heather Mac Donald called it unsurprising, that “students are trying to game a system that they regard as unfair.”
“Being of a favored race or ethnicity confers an enormous advantage in the college admissions racket; conversely, being of a disfavored race or ethnicity is a large handicap,” Mac Donald told The College Fix via email.
Mac Donald added the academic left simultaneously “insists that race is a social construct, with no biological reality.”
“If race is in fact simply an artificial category, why not choose one’s own race? The left has never answered the question why we can’t all be black if there is no genetic reality to race. These two factors: a vast racial preference machine in college admissions and the insistence that race is a construct—make the manipulation of the admissions system an inevitability and, frankly, fair game,” she said.
Mac Donald added that “if academic claims of ‘white privilege’ were correct, we would expect to see so-called students of color portraying their race and ethnicity on college applications as white.”
“Deception in that direction is nearly unthinkable, however. Admissions advantages accrue to ‘students of color,’ not to whites.”
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