UC Berkeley professor apologizes for mistaken Indigenous identity


SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — An anthropology professor at the University of California, Berkeley, whose Native American identity has been questioned for years, this week apologized for misidentifying as an Indigenous woman and said she was “a white person” who lived an identity based on family history.

Elizabeth Hoover, associate professor of environmental science, policy and management, said in an apology was published on its website on Monday that she claimed to be a woman of Mohawk and Mi’kmaq descent but never confirmed that identity with those communities or researched her ancestry until recently.

“I did damage,” wrote Hoover. “I have hurt indigenous people who were my friends, colleagues, students and family members both directly through broken trust and by activating historical damage. This pain has disrupted the lives and careers of students and faculty as well. I acknowledge that I could have prevented all of this pain if I had researched and validated my family histories sooner. I am deeply sorry for that.”

Hoover’s alleged Indigenous roots were questioned in 2021 after her name appeared on an Alleged Pretendian List. The list, compiled by Jacqueline Keeler, a Native American writer and activist, includes more than 200 names of people Keeler says are falsely claiming Native American heritage.

Hoover first addressed doubts about her ethnic identity last year, when she said in an October post on her website that she had done genealogical research and “found no records of tribal citizenship for any of my family members in the tribal databases that were accessed.” “.

Her statement caused an uproar, and Some of her former students wrote a letter asked for her resignation in November. The letter was signed by hundreds of students and scholars from UC Berkeley and other universities, along with members of Native American communities. It also called for her to apologize for no longer identifying as Indigenous and to acknowledge that she had done harm, among other things.

“As scholars embedded in the kinship networks of our communities, we find Hoover’s repeated attempts to differentiate herself from settlers with similar histories, and her claim that she lived as an Indigenous person by dancing at powwows, to be absolutely appalling,” it said in the letter.

Janet Gilmore, a spokeswoman for UC Berkeley, said in a statement she could not comment on whether Hoover faces disciplinary action, saying discussing it “would violate human resources matters and/or privacy rights, both of which are protected by law.”

“However, we recognize and support ongoing efforts to achieve restorative justice in a manner that recognizes and addresses the extent to which this matter has caused harm and irritation among members of our community,” Gilmore added.

Hoover is the latest person to apologize for falsely claiming a racial or ethnic identity.

US Senator Elizabeth Warren angered many Native Americans during her presidential campaign in 2018, when she used the results of a DNA test to try to refute ridicule from then-President Donald Trump, who had mockingly called her “fake Pocahontas.”

Despite DNA results showing some evidence of a Native American in Warren’s lineage probably six to 10 generations ago, Warren is not a member of any tribe and DNA testing is not typically used as evidence in determining tribal citizenship.

Warren later offered a public apology at a Native American forum and said she was “sorry for the harm I caused.”

2015, Rachel Dolezal was fired as head of the NAACP chapter in Spokane, Washington and was kicked out of a police ombudsman panel after her parents told local media that their daughter was born white but presented as black. She also lost her job teaching African Studies at Eastern Washington University in nearby Cheney.

Hoover said her identity was questioned after she started her first job as an assistant professor. She began teaching at UC Berkeley in Fall 2020.

“Back then, I interpreted requests for the validity of my Aboriginal identity as petty jealousies or people just trying to interfere in my life,” she wrote.

Hoover said that growing up in rural upstate New York, she thought she was someone of mixed Mohawk, Mi’kmaq, French, English, Irish, and German ancestry and attended food summits and powwows. Her mother told stories about her grandmother being a Mohawk woman who married an abusive French Canadian man and committed suicide, leaving her children to be raised by someone else.

She said she would no longer identify as Indigenous but would continue to help with food sovereignty and environmental justice movements in Indigenous communities who ask for her support.

In her apology, released Monday, Hoover acknowledged that she had benefited from programs and funding targeted at native scholars and said she was committed to participating in the restorative justice process taking place on campus, ” as well as to support restorative justice processes in other circles I have been involved where my participation is invited.”

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