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Terese Mailhot: Author Joseph Boyden seeks pity after Indian identity questions

Filed Under: First Nations in Canada | Opinion
More on: books, joseph boyden, race, terese marie mailhot
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Terese Mailhot. Photo from Facebook

Writer Terese Mailhot (Seabird Island Band) takes on Canadian author Joseph Boyden, whose claims of indigenous identity have come under scrutiny:
Joseph Boyden, author of The Orenda and a figurehead in Native literature, was recently scrutinized for his lack of proof concerning his Native roots. Boyden has referred to himself as Celtic, Metis, Ojibway, Mi’kmaq and Nipmuc, which is super confusing and suspicious. When APTN award-winning journalist Jorge Barrera questioned all of this, Joseph Boyden wrote an apologetic letter that notes how, while he is only a “little bit” Native, he’s enough and he belongs. He stated that he only wanted to discuss the issue further in the “sacred and safe place” of a “speaking circle.” I’m sorry, Boyden, but if you are in fact Indian, you don’t get pity. We’re not allotted the luxury of pity.

When Indians mess up bad in the white world, our awards are taken away, and we’re not given a platform to apologize or elicit pity (with the possible exception of someone like Sherman Alexie). By the time we feel compelled to “speak our truth,” we’re already forgotten about or ignored.

His response was cringe-worthy because it was via Twitter, and it was entitled. He requested APTN to bring forth their “Elder in Residence” to facilitate a “speaking circle.” Does he know a TV corporation might not have an Elder in Residence? And if they do, I’d go ahead and say they shouldn’t be bothered to coddle a successful author who was caught in some PR nightmare. Use a publicist like all Native and non-Native professionals do when they need a pivot or a spin.

Read More on the Story:
Terese Mailhot: Joseph Boyden, Natives Don’t Get Pity (Indian Country Today 1/9)

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Doug George-Kanentiio: Author exploits mythical Native identity (1/6)


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