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Professor Apologizes for Claiming to be Native American 'Her Entire Life'

Photo via Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management at UC Berkeley

A UC Berkeley professor who reportedly claimed to be Native American “her entire life” has revealed that she is not of Indigenous descent, the New York Post reported.


Elizabeth Hoover is an associate professor in the environmental science and policy management department at the university. This week, on her personal website, Hoover published a “Letter of Apology and Accountability” where she revealed that she believed she was of Native descent based on “incomplete information” (via Elizabeth M. Hoover):

I am a white person who has incorrectly identified as Native my whole life, based on incomplete information. In uncritically living an identity based on family stories without seeking out a documented connection to these communities, I caused harm. 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.


Growing up I did not question who I was told I was, or how I identified. But as an adult, as an academic, I should have done my due diligence to confirm that my ancestors were who I was told they were. In my twenties and thirties, I lived in different Native communities, where I knew I did not have the breadth and depth of connection that these folks had to Native family, history, and culture. At the time I wrongly felt that my distant connection was enough for me to claim a Native identity alongside them. This identity guided the types of research and community work I carried out, and the communities I sought to be part of—communities who may or may not have welcomed me in the same way had I identified as white.  


According to Hoover’s post, she began being challenged about her Native American identity when she took her first assistant professor job. She brushed of people's questions and concerns as “petty jealousy.” She said that “identifying as a Native person gave me access to spaces and resources that I would not have otherwise.” The accusations regarding her heritage occurred “throughout her career” as a professor at Elizabethtown College, St. Olaf College and Brown University.

Reportedly, Hoover has published books surrounding being Native American and specifically claimed to be of Mohawk and Mi'kmaq descent. 

Adrienne Keene, an associate professor at Brown University and a Cherokee Nation citizen, used to be friends with Hoover. According to the Post, Keene said that Hoover’s “story fell apart very quickly, within a few clicks,” of her looking into it. 

Townhall has reported that several high-profile activists had been caught pretending to have Native American ancestry, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Canadian academic Carrie Bourassa, and actress Sacheen Littlefeather, whose sisters came forward late last year after her death to reveal that she was of Mexican descent. And, earlier this year, a “non-binary” founder of an Indigenous artists’ collective was caught for faking her Native American identity.


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