Ethnic identity crisis is a strange phenomenon indeed – especially when it comes to people who falsely claim to be indigenous (Indian, Inuit, or Metis). These People who have no right to make their claims, but because of something missing inside themselves they blatantly stake wild claims that can adversely affect actual Indigenous people. Now, we’re not talking about actual Indigenous people who were divested of their cultural identity by factors like adoption or government policies like relocation, who are undertaking a journey to discover their true Indigenous identity. Rather, we are talking about those who claim Indigenous heritage based on family lore, a mysterious Indian ancestor they found on Ancestry.com, or who just want to be Indigenous so they make it up.
Individuals who suffer from an ethnic identity crisis usually do so for an assortment of reasons. Some just want to be part of another ethnicity because they think it’s cool, noble, or they just like what the other culture represents. Others do so because of the apparent benefits that the think Indigenous people receive, such as the ability to get scholarships or to check a box on a job application.
Now some of these people might actually have an Indigenous ancestor, but that ancestor is long forgotten and their family has likely lived as European for several generations – fully assimilating themselves and happily enjoying the benefits of white privilege. However, the popularity of DNA tests, genealogical research, and some of the recent legal decisions in the US and Canada have peaked a curiosity in them. Maybe they want hunting rights; maybe they think that they can cash in on some of the rumored “easy money” that they think can be had by Indigenous people; but suddenly they are 100% Indigenous and proud of their “Indigenous heritage” no matter how remote or uncertain it may actually be. Even if their Indigenous ancestry comes from a (often dubious) great grandmother from the early 1600s, they make a decision that of all of the succeeding generations who have lived as white people, that single Indigenous ancestor will hereinafter define them and make them Indigenous.
Sadly, most of these persons suffering from an ethnic identity crisis understand the real truth – that they are really not Indigenous. Nonetheless, they dig in their heels and thump their chests with misplaced pride. Knowing that they don’t actually have a link to an actual Indigenous community, they might claim to be Metis using the racial definition of a person with mixed European/Indigenous ancestry as the basis for this claim. They might run out and join a “tribe” or a “Metis” group in order to get a card to bolster their credentials. In the most extreme cases they might even start their own group and recruit others of similar dubious Indigenous heritage to join them because there is safety in numbers. A lone person suffering an ethnic identity crisis making false claims is easily dismissed as a wannabe, but several of them together can shout really loudly and make a big stink about it – fooling those around them who might not be privy to their doubtful claims.
So what can be done about these people suffering from ethnic identity crisis? Sadly, not much. They will likely always be a thorn in the side of true Indigenous people and communities. They will continue to scream about their “pride”, shout about their (supposed) proof, and they will threaten those who do not believe them and who stand against the damage they do to Indigenous people. It’s sad, but it probably won’t stop any time soon.
A collaborative effort of members of the Ojibwe and Metis communities