Move over, Ward Churchill, Elizabeth Warren and Rachel Dolezal, there's a new fraud in town.
The Daily Surge reports that Andrea Smith, a UC Riverside professor of media and cultural studies who is often described as a top "Cherokee Intellectual," apparently isn't a Cherokee at all.
She appears as a featured scholar at major events and has written books that were well-received by her colleagues. 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).
But according to many, Smith’s Cherokee identity is a complete sham. Much of the attack on Smith is coming from an anonymous but well-sourced Tumblr blog called Andrea Smith Is Not A Cherokee. Her Native American heritage has also been challenged in The Daily Beast, which quotes David Cornsilk, a Cherokee genealogist who says he researched undergraduate Smith’s heritage back in 1993 at her request. He unearthed absolutely no evidence of Cherokee heritage. Cornsilk says Smith approached him a second time in 1997 to check again, allegedly telling him “her employment depended on finding proof of Indian heritage.” Again Cornsilk came up empty, but that didn’t deter Smith from claiming Cherokee heritage or allowing others to attribute it to her.
The Daily Beast reports:
In 2008, her failed tenure bid at the University of Michigan caused a significant backlash, with activists claiming the school was marginalizing minority women. A 2011 symposium at Quebec’s Concordia University described her as a “Cherokee Intellectual.” Similar descriptions have been used for Smith for events at the University of Illinois at Chicago, the University of Texas at Austin, and the University of Toronto.
Questions about Smith’s heritage have been raised in the past. Former Indiana University at Bloomington professor Steve Russell called out Smith in Indian Country Today in 2008, and later told Inside Higher Ed that he once extracted a promise from Smith back in 2008 to stop claiming Indian ancestry after finding she was not enrolled with any tribe, as long as he in return promised to stop writing about the matter.
Not only that, but apparently even Smith’s siblings may be getting in on the fraud. An article published by Russell on July 1 accuses Andrea’s sister Justine of not only falsely claiming Cherokee heritage but also getting a fake tribal ID card.
Smith has not yet publicly addressed the revelation, and UC-Riverside apparently doesn't care. In a statement given to The Daily Caller, the school said,
Professor Smith is a teacher and research of high merit who, on that basis, earned a tenured faculty position at UC Riverside. The University of California is precluded by law from considering an individual’s ethnicity in any hiring or advancement decisions.”