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Elizabeth Hoover, a White anthropology professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who identified as Native American for years, is now apologizing for her racial deception.
She had long been publicly questioned for falsely identifying as Indigenous, saying she is “a White person” who lived an identity based on family lore.
Associate professor of environmental science, policy and management, Hoover said in an apology Monday that she claimed an identity as a woman of Mohawk and Mi’kmaq descent but never confirmed that identity with those communities or researched her ancestry until recently.
“I caused harm,” Hoover wrote.
“I hurt Native people who have been my friends, colleagues, students, and family, both directly through fractured trust and through activating historical harms. This hurt has also interrupted student and faculty life and careers. I acknowledge that I could have prevented all of this hurt by investigating and confirming my family stories sooner. For this, I am deeply sorry.”
CBS News reports Hoover’s alleged Indigenous roots came into question 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 heritage.
Hoover first addressed doubts about her ethnic identity last year when she said in an October post on her website that she had conducted 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 authored a letter in November demanding her resignation
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, stop identifying as Indigenous and acknowledge she had caused harm, among other demands.
Perhaps the California resident was influenced by Hollywood, an industry which has a history of racial misrepresentation.
Hollywood has long allowed Whites to pass as Natives
Hudson played a Native trader named Young Bull in “Winchester ’73.” He appears in the film wearing face paint and a feather pigtails rivaled in offensiveness only by Karlie Kloss’ Victoria’s Secret headdress.
Henry Brandon, “The Searchers,” 1953
In his role as the murderous Chief Scar, Brandon exemplified the intensely flawed concept of Native Americans as savages. Despite their victimized place in history, many narratives — such as the one featured in “The Searchers” — reposition the Native story, characterizing them as vilified others.
Burt Lancaster, “Apache,” 1954
Lancaster played Massai in the 1954 film “Apache,” a warrior who resists the White takeover of his people, according to Huffington Post.
Despite the fact that the book is based on the true story recorded in Paul I. Wellman’s “Broncho Apache,” United Artists studio demanded the film disregard the tragic death of Massai’s real-life counterpart in favor of a cinematically happy ending.
Audrey Hepburn, “The Unforgiven,” 1960
“The Unforgiven” insensitively deals with the story of a Native child (Hepburn) who is adopted and assimilated into White culture. It repeatedly undermines the intelligence of Native Americans and treats being non-White as a status associated with aggressive shame.
Johnny Depp, “The Lone Ranger,” 2013
Depp argued the case for his role as Tonto, going so far as to tell Rolling Stone he believed his performance would be inspiring to Native American children.
Huffington Post reported he also claimed he had a Native great-grandmother. Depp’s pleas didn’t help the movie: the movie was dragged by critics and flopped at the box office.
Hoover said she would no longer identify as Indigenous but would continue to help with food sovereignty and environmental justice movements in Native communities that ask her for her support.
Berkeley professors find Elizabeth Hoover “absolutely appalling” for claiming to be Native
“As scholars embedded in the kinship networks of our communities, we find Hoover’s repeated attempts to differentiate herself from settlers with similar stories and her claims of having lived experience as an Indigenous person by dancing at powwows absolutely appalling,” the letter read.
Janet Gilmore, a UC Berkeley spokesperson, said in a statement she couldn’t comment on whether Hoover faces disciplinary action, saying discussing it would violate “personnel matters and/or violate privacy rights, both of which are protected by law.”
“However, we are aware of and support ongoing efforts to achieve restorative justice in a way that acknowledges and addresses the extent to which this matter has caused harm and upset among members of our community,” Gilmore added.