Donna Ennis: Don't let ethnic imposters take away our identity

Iron Eyes Cody pretended he was Indian for most of his adult life. Photo from Find a Grave

Donna Ennis explains why ethnic imposters need to be challenged in Indian Country:
Asa Earl Carter used the pseudonym, Forrest Carter to write the novel The Education of Little Tree purportedly about his experience being raised by his Cherokee grandparents in the 1920’s. The book was published in 1976 and was later revealed to be a literary hoax and Asa Earl Carter was revealed as a White supremacist and a member of the KKK in Alabama.

In the 1930’s, Archie Bellamy, assumed the Native American identity of Grey Owl, to carry on a conservation message. It is said that his work saved the Canadian beaver from extinction. His British origins, his subsequent migration to Canada and his career move from trapper to conservationist were discovered upon his death.

In 1948, Ray Sprigle, a journalist disguised himself as an African American man and wrote a series of articles entitled I was a Negro in the South for 30 Days.

Black Like Me is a book written by the journalist John Howard Griffin and published in 1961. In the book he describes his experience traveling throughout the racially segregated south of the 50’s and passing as an African American man.

For decades, Iron Eyes Cody, portrayed Native Americans on film and on television, claiming to be of Cree-Cherokee heritage. Even after it was revealed that he was an Italian immigrant named Espira DiCorti he continued the ruse until his death.

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Donna Ennis: Beware of Ethnic Imposters (Indian Country Today 9/15)

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