A professor at the University of California-Berkeley has apologized for “incorrectly” identifying as Native American when she is actually white. The disgraced professor released a public apology for having professed that she was part of the Mohawk and Mi’kmaq communities her entire life, per the Daily Mail.
Sociology professor Elizabeth Hoover published a lengthy statement on Monday, explaining that she was not a member of the Native American tribes that she had been told she was while growing up in upstate New York. Instead, she said, “I am a white person.”
Though Hoover claimed that she never deliberately set out to deceive or exploit anyone, her claims put a heavy strain on the suspension of disbelief. At a time when many people are able to identify their way into victimhood, it is clear to see that Hoover identifying as a Native American would have a substantial upside, both financially and culturally.
In fact, the Daily Mail reported that Hoover had used her fake identity as a Native American woman to “win prestigious jobs, grants and fellowships, to publish books and papers,” and even go on to become a prominent figure in what is known as the “food sovereignty” movement.
Hoover had apparently long claimed that she was a member of the Mohawk and Mi’kmaq communities, even making reference to her fraudulent heritage in news accounts and doctoral dissertation for Brown University. Additionally, Hoover admitted in her statement that she did not investigate her heritage, but rather relied exclusively on family stories she was told growing up.
She said: “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.”
But Hoover has already reaped the immense benefits of a fraudulent identity. It is not known if she would have received the accolades she did if she had identified as white person from the start. This fraudulent behavior is par for the course, as colleges and universities across the country are prioritizing minority students at a disproportionate rate, which is why it is working.
The Hill published a report in October 2021 that stated 34 percent of white college applicants identified as some sort of minority on their applications, thus improving the chances of them being admitted. Forty-eight percent of those white students lying about their identity claimed to be Native American. And the lie appeared to work, as 77 percent of those students who lied about minority status were admitted.
There is evidence to suggest that Hoover was hired at Berkeley for her fake identity, as she was apparently heralded in campus media as part of a growing community of Native American scholars that would help make the campus a more welcoming place for learning and researching Native American heritage, per the Daily Mail.
Now, Hoover claims that she, her sisters, and her parents are “shocked and confused about what this information means,” per the report. She said that she and members of her family used to go to powwows in order to connect with their heritage. But it is strange that none of Hoover’s family decided to corroborate what they were told about their family history. It seems that if heritage and identity played such a large role in Hoover’s life, she would have looked into it a bit more than just believing family tales.
About 300 students and faculty have now called for Hoover’s resignation, with some claiming that she is a “pretendian” - a white person who has faked an Indigenous identity for profit. However, it is currently unknown if the university will take action against Hoover.
Hoover noted that she will “continue to funnel the proceeds from my talks and book sales into Native farm, food sovereignty, and educational programs. I will make additional donations to practitioners in these fields.”