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Move over Liz Warren: Claims arise that UC-Riverside prof is not really Native American

(This post has been updated. See below.)

Ward Churchill. Elizabeth Warren. And now … Andrea Smith?

The first two are well known, in part, due to their sketchy claims of Native American ancestry; Smith’s are just coming to light.

The Daily Caller reports that Smith, an associate professor at the University of California, Riverside, is no Rachel Dolezal as she “is recognized as a significant scholar in her field.”

“Her career has largely been defined by her supposed American Indian identity. Besides her academic work, she also helped create the organization INCITE!, which describes itself as a collection of ‘radical feminists of color.’ She’s also been active in the Indian group Women of All Red Nations (WARN),” writes Blake Neff at The DC.

The Daily Beast reported at the end of June that Smith had engaged the services of genealogist David Cornsilk in the 1990s to research her roots. He came up empty.

“Her ancestry through her mother was first and showed no connection to the Cherokee tribe,” Cornsilk told The Daily Beast. “Her second effort came in 1998 or around then with ‘new claims’ on her father’s lineage, which also did not pan out.”

At first, Cornsilk thought that she was “just another client, nothing out of the ordinary.” But when she came back the second time, Cornsilk told The Daily Beast, Smith “told [him] her employment depended on finding proof of Indian heritage.”

Smith allegedly continued to portray herself as Cherokee despite Cornsilk’s research. Her second attempt to establish her Cherokee descent came shortly before she established the renowned feminist of color activist organization INCITE! and about five years before her 2002 appointment as an assistant professor at the University of Michigan.

Cornsilk told The Daily Beast that he was “compelled to inform members of her field that she had no Cherokee ancestry.”

Cornsilk added that “it’s ‘not unusual’ for people to contact him on the basis that their employment depends on proving their descent.”


In addition, Annita Lucchesi, a graduate student at Washington State University, went after Smith on Tumblr with a now-viral post titled “Andrea Smith is not Cherokee.” Smith deactivated her Twitter account shortly thereafter.

UC-Irvine’s Gary Fouse informed The College Fix via email that Smith was one of the sponsors of UC-Riverside’s BDS — Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions — movement against Israel.

The College Fix reached out to Professor Smith for comment regarding the allegations made about her ancestry; she has (thus far) not replied.

Smith received her PhD in History of Consciousness (huh?) at UC Santa Cruz in 2002, and most recently a J.D. at UC Irvine School of Law.

UPDATE: Inside Higher Ed reports today that a dozen Native American scholars have issued an open letter to Professor Smith, which reads in part:

“Andrea Smith has a decades-long history of self-contradictory stories of identity and affiliation testified to by numerous scholars and activists, including her admission to four separate parties that she has no claim to Cherokee ancestry at all. She purportedly promised to no longer identify as Cherokee, and yet in her subsequent appearances and publications she continues to assert herself as a nonspecific ‘Native woman’ or a ‘woman of color’ scholar …”

Read the full Daily Caller and Daily Beast stories.

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Dave has been writing about education, politics, and entertainment for over 20 years, including a stint at the popular media bias site Newsbusters. He is a retired educator with over 25 years of service and is a member of the National Association of Scholars. Dave holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Delaware.