If it’s a tenuous connection going back many years he should state that.
December 28, 2016 4:20 PM   Subscribe

Author Joseph Boyden defends Indigenous heritage after investigation.

"If his connection is tenuous, going back many generations, he should say it, he should say how far back. Anyone in that position should do that, because you can’t cash in on being Aboriginal and not show what your real connection is. There has been too much of that happening."

Boyden responds on Twitter.
posted by kneecapped (24 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Also, Rebekah Tabobondung, editor of Muskrat Magazine, comments in an interview on CBC's As It Happens.
posted by kneecapped at 4:45 PM on December 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

Here is an extensive thread from Dr. Debbie Reese on indigenous identity, and discussion of this issue by indigenous people about Boyden's claims over the years about his identity.

She is tribally enrolled at Nambe Pueblo, the publisher of American Indians in Children's Literature; she has a PhD and M.Ed in Education, and an MLIS.
posted by headspace at 4:47 PM on December 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

A must-read (indeed, none of this makes any sense unless you start with it) article is the one by APTN that started it all: Author Joseph Boyden’s shape-shifting Indigenous identity
posted by My Dad at 5:42 PM on December 28, 2016 [6 favorites]

And for those that don't know, APTN - the org that broke this story with the long and extensively researched article linked above - stands for Aboriginal People's Television Network.
posted by thecjm at 6:18 PM on December 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

Show us your papers!
posted by skjønn at 6:52 PM on December 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

I'm sure that more will be revealed in the time to come, but at first read this is pretty disturbing. Boyden has held himself out as a first nations person, and has spoken out on behalf of aboriginal communities many times. Now, it if turns out that he is not actually a member of those communities, he may have spoken without any right to do so, however sympathetic or well-intentioned.

I'm struck by his use of the word Metis as simply meaning 'of mixed blood', when that use has been obsolete for some time, as opposed to meaning the Metis nation that appeared along the Red River. I'm a suburban white guy, and I would never make that mistake -- why would someone deeply entrenched in aboriginal issues?

Dunno. But at this early stage, it doesn't look good for Boyden.
posted by Capt. Renault at 8:13 PM on December 28, 2016 [5 favorites]

Someone pointed out that all those times Boyden was asked to comment about Indigenous issues he could have said "Maybe there's someone else better positioned to speak on this." And he didn't say that.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 8:58 PM on December 28, 2016 [11 favorites]

This is somehow more puerile than the "Stolen Valor" crap that veterans cry themselves to sleep about.

You* are so reluctant to confront the issue that you've** changed what you call these people several times over a relatively short time period because you feel uncomfortable about it.

Think about that, how the blue fuck would you feel if you were told by a bunch of old bad hockey playing douchebags that "Well, now you're a First Nations-er, sorry." I'd be righteously angry as all hell. And my parents and grandparents?

Now you're going to take that perceived indignation to the point where you're roasting this guy because he feels like he's part of a cause, and writes defending that from that viewpoint? Who cares?

At least in America we have the decency to shove the natives onto shitty land poor reservations and try real hard not to think about it. Unless you go to the South where everybody and their sister is "1/16 Cherokee on my mother's side."

There ain't enough sorries or Timbits for this.

** (again we. At this point, I'm in the you statements.)

posted by Sphinx at 5:40 AM on December 29, 2016

I've found âpihtawikosisân, who is a Métis teacher and author, to be a good resource for background on this situation. Her comments about how often Boyden has relied on Indigenous women (instead of lifting up their voices) are especially devastating.
posted by ITheCosmos at 5:54 AM on December 29, 2016 [6 favorites]

And this thread by Daniel Heath Justice with words on what the appropriate place for non-Indigenous people is in this situation was also useful to me.
posted by ITheCosmos at 5:56 AM on December 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

Now you're going to take that perceived indignation to the point where you're roasting this guy because he feels like he's part of a cause, and writes defending that from that viewpoint? Who cares?

The people who are actually part of that cause, who have actually lived their lives in those cultures and are being ignored probably care quite a lot.
posted by jeather at 6:00 AM on December 29, 2016 [18 favorites]

When someone appropriates an indigenous culture and doesn't profit or become a spokesperson, they're annoying but not really a Problem. When they profit or take the place of actual, real Native voices in media, they are stealing the voices (and money) of real people for their own ends and ego. This is wrong, no matter who is doing it or how well they speak to any issue. By replacing a Indigenous voice with one that is inherently white, you comfort the white media and white viewers who are likely to always choose a voice that looks and sounds like them.

This is an ongoing issue in Indian country, and it fucking sucks that so many people who do it "mean well" and that's taken to be an adequate excuse by all and sundry.
posted by RedEmma at 7:28 AM on December 29, 2016 [11 favorites]

P.S. Rachel Dolezal can pretend to be Black and it's fucked up and weird, but it doesn't really hurt anyone. When she takes the place of a Black voice on a panel or in any paid position (no matter how well-spoken and informed she is) she steals the income and voice of Black women--a voice that has been dismissed and ignored and pushed aside for generations. The same rule applies here.
posted by RedEmma at 7:32 AM on December 29, 2016 [14 favorites]

I am not Native, so I'm not qualified to argue one way or the other. I did find these two twitter threads interesting: one from an Ojibwe woman saying that you're not Native unless a tribe claims you (please read the thread--there's nuance), and one from a Lakota woman talking about the harm that faking Native heritage does.
posted by ElizaDolots at 8:37 AM on December 29, 2016 [7 favorites]

The Globe and Mail ran a typically clueless op-ed column about Boyden. The Facebook comments offer a surprisingly (for Facebook) good analysis of why the column is so misinformed.
posted by My Dad at 9:20 AM on December 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

This is somehow more puerile than the "Stolen Valor" crap that veterans cry themselves to sleep about.

This is a very confusing comment but I think fundamentally you may be misinterpreting who his critics are and why.
posted by atoxyl at 11:20 AM on December 29, 2016 [6 favorites]

Sphinx, others above said it better than me. But when Boyden takes the position of speaking for Native Peoples, and is listened to because he claims to be Native, but isn't, he's drowning out voices that should be heard with his own non-native perceptions, in a world where they already aren't listened to enough. Oh, and taking money from writing grants and awards that are specific to Native writers. I can only imagine how disheartening it is to realize a prolific author has been speaking for your community, and relying on the said community in order to do so, but yet again, it is a non-native person putting on some sort of aqquisitional masquerade, and yet again, the only voices being heard are white ones.

Also, what's with the vitrol towards veterans? Mr. branravenraven served two tours in some of the heaviest urban combat in Iraq, and, yeah, he does find it to be frustrating when some guy commits fraud by pretending to be a veteran in order to benefit from it, but doesn't have to deal with any of the huge issues that actual veterans deal with every day. He's not thinking about 'Stolen Valour' every day, or crying himself to sleep about it, as you said, but it happens more than you might think. I've seen it happen.
posted by branravenraven at 11:31 AM on December 29, 2016 [2 favorites]

Oh my, that APTN report is one heck of a takedown. If I've learned one thing in life, it's to never try to bullshit a genealogist. They always find out.
posted by Kattullus at 11:46 AM on December 29, 2016 [2 favorites]

This Facebook post by Daniel Heath Justice sheds more light on the background of criticism of Boyden and his behaviours. Some quotes:
"[W]e have to pay attention to his decidedly minimal role in bringing attention to Indigenous literature as an impressive, innovative, and provocative body of work that's been in development for at least three centuries in English, longer in Indigenous mother tongues [...] [Y]ou almost never see or hear him talk about lesser-known writers, emerging voices, literary histories, or Indigenous publishers, and when he does mention them its almost always in vague and tokenistic ways"

"[I]t's vital to note some of the very troubling ways that Boyden has (or has not) dealt with open questions as well as critique, especially by Indigenous women about how he takes up space on issues about murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls, not to mention how he handled/ignored critiques by women of UBCAccountable letter and its continuing aftermath with MRA trolls."

"For all my objection to Boyden's work and self-representation, I do have a measure of sympathy for him, as I don't think he's an awful human being but is, rather, deeply invested in a story that clearly can't keep up with his ever-expanding ambitions. It is less his identity than his behaviour that is the issue, and this is certainly not beyond critique, especially when he so actively evades reasonable and, thus far, quite generous questions from people he claims to represent."
There's also a powerful postscript with an important reminder (I encourage you to read the whole thing):
[T]his is also why we have to be clear about what we're discussing and remain empathetic on all levels, to see the human costs of all these issues--and not only the reputational cost for Boyden, though not ignoring him, either. It's not only about him, but about the kinds of conversations we have about Indigeneity, belonging, and kinship, and how those help or hinder Indigenous peoples' political resurgence and capacity to live in strong, healthy, self-determining ways in our own lands and waters (when possible) and according to our own ways and priorities. [...] Identity is only one part of the discussion around Boyden right now, and to me the above matters are in many ways at least as significant, if not more so given how eclipsed they are by the discussion of heritage. In the end, how do we balance empathy with accountability, and grapple in ethical, empathetic, and honest ways with the imbalances of history, privilege, and power?"
posted by mr. manager at 12:26 PM on December 29, 2016 [8 favorites]

That's a fantastic link, mr. manager. Thanks.
posted by rtha at 12:36 PM on December 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

The DHJ commentary linked above defines the issues clearly.

As for the Globe, well, they often print the words of random people mouthing silly things, mixed in with their other stuff.
posted by ovvl at 4:04 PM on December 29, 2016

I hadn't realized it was Konrad Y.
posted by My Dad at 1:44 PM on December 30, 2016

CBC website: Who gets to speak on behalf of the Indigenous community?
posted by ovvl at 4:34 PM on December 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

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