Indigenous groups rally around Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond amid calls for proof of her Cree ancestry

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Indigenous organizations in Saskatchewan and British Columbia are expressing assist for Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond within the wake of a CBC News investigation into her claims to Indigenous ancestry.

But some Indigenous students are calling on the outstanding tutorial and former choose — she is a professor at UBC and was on the bench in Saskatchewan — to reply the questions it raised.

For a long time, Turpel-Lafond has claimed to be a treaty Indian of Cree descent. However, when challenged, she has refused to offer proof of her claims.

On Wednesday night, hours after CBC’s story was printed, the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) stated in a press release Turpel-Lafond “has been a fierce, moral, and groundbreaking advocate for Indigenous peoples for a long time.”

Her integrity “is past reproach,” the group stated. 

The UBCIC additionally stated CBC has no enterprise investigating Turpel-Lafond’s — or anybody else’s — claims to Indigenous identification.

Kim Tallbear, an Indigenous professor within the school of Native research on the University of Alberta, says there’s a rising quantity of individuals in Canada falsely claiming Indigenous ancestry. (University of Alberta/Jeff Allen)

“Investigations into the ancestry of people, full of private photographs and digging into non-public issues, doesn’t transfer justice, rights implementation, and reconciliation ahead,” it stated. 

“We additionally marvel if Dr. Turpel-Lafond’s outspoken advocacy has unfairly made her a goal.”

The Saskatoon Tribal Council identified that Turpel-Lafond has been accepted as a member of the Muskeg Lake Cree Nation in Saskatchewan.

“Our kinship is outlined by First Nations and never by the media or Canadian authorities,” the council stated in a press release issued Thursday.

None of the organizations addressed the truth that Turpel-Lafond has failed to supply proof of her ancestry. Experts word that membership in a First Nations neighborhood doesn’t make one Indigenous. 

Turpel-Lafond says her father was Cree and was raised by her grandparents, Dr. William Nicholson Turpel and his spouse Eleanor. However, genealogical information present that William was of Irish, German and U.S. ancestry, whereas Eleanor was born in England to British dad and mom. 

Turpel-Lafond declined to clarify this when requested by CBC News. 

She has additionally refused to indicate her standing card or even point out if she has one. All treaty Indians — these whose kinfolk are on treaty lists with the Canadian authorities — are full standing Indians and would have such playing cards. 

“I’ve not and won’t be sharing any non-public confidential private information with any media outlet,” Turpel-Lafond wrote in an electronic mail to CBC News.

Calls for solutions

Kim Tallbear, an Indigenous professor within the school of Native research on the University of Alberta, stated, after reviewing CBC’s story, that she concluded: “I do not imagine that [Turpel-Lafond] is Indigenous.

“The documentation appears fairly strong to assist who her dad and mom have been, who her grandparents have been,” she stated. “The proof is overwhelming.” 

Tallbear says there’s a rising downside in Canada of non-Indigenous individuals pretending to be Indigenous to take benefit of sure advantages.

Questions about Turpel-Lafond are hitting the Indigenous authorized neighborhood onerous, says Jean Teillet, an Indigenous rights lawyer of Métis ancestry. (Rob Kruk/Radio-Canada)

She says, in her view, Turpel-Lafond’s declare to Cree ancestry opened doorways for her profession improvement. 

“This has given her entrée to communities. It’s given her entrée to belief,” she stated. “It has given her a leg up in some ways. We know that. That’s apparent.”

If Turpel-Lafond is offended by queries about her ancestry, possibly she should not have publicly talked about it for years, says Michelle Good, an Indigenous writer (Five Little Indians) and retired lawyer from the Red Pheasant Cree Nation in Saskatchewan.

“If an individual feels that their identification is one thing that needs to be privately held and secreted away, then maybe they should not be proclaiming themselves as such publicly.”

Good says, in her view, Turpel-Lafond has some obligation to reply questions.

“If she says that she actually is aware of that there’s Indigenous ancestry, then for the those who she claims to like and assist and to dedicate her life to, she ought to deliver that [evidence] ahead, she ought to deliver that publicly out.”

The questions on Turpel-Lafond are hitting the Indigenous authorized neighborhood onerous, in keeping with Jean Teillet, an Indigenous rights lawyer of Métis ancestry.

“I feel all of us have a mixture of reactions,” she stated. “Everything from harm and feeling betrayed to questioning to attempting to grasp higher.”

Teillet says she has labored with Turpel-Lafond on occasion for the reason that early Nineties and by no means doubted that she was Indigenous.

But she says, the article had “troubling” particulars. 

Teillet says she has intently examined the challenge of false claims of Indigenous identification. Last yr, she was retained by the University of Saskatchewan to analyze Carrie Bourassa, a professor who had claimed to be Métis, Anishnabe and Tlingit. Bourassa resigned from the college after that investigation was accomplished. Its conclusions weren’t made public. 

Teillet says there are various individuals falsely claiming Indigenous identification throughout Canada — within the arts, academia, authorities and different sectors — and that the implications are devastating. 

“For each time they publish an article, for each time they get an appointment as an Indigenous choose, they’re taking that chance from an Indigenous particular person,” she stated. “They’re hogging the microphone.

“My feeling is that they could do good work and I assist the work they do. And has it been useful? Absolutely. But did they must do it in pink face?”

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