California professor resigns after backlash over her false claims of Cherokee ancestry

"I have consistently identified myself based on what I knew to be true."

Katie Daviscourt Seattle WA
A professor at the University of California, Riverside has resigned after falsely claiming to have Native American heritage. 

Andrea Smith, an ethnic studies "expert," agreed to resign after 13 colleagues ousted her for lying about her Native American roots, in which Smith claimed to be a member of the Cherokee Nation, according to The Times.

Allegations that Smith had been lying about her ancestry first surfaced in 2008, when she was denied tenure by the University of Michigan, which activists said was "discriminatory" at the time. However, an indigenous academic uncovered that Smith was not registered as a member of the Cherokee Nation.

Despite not being Native American, Smith, who has been compared to notorious heritage fraudster Rachel Dolezal, says that she is a victim of "violent identity policing" and maintains that she is Cherokee.

"I have always been, and will always be Cherokee," Smith said, according to the outlet. "I have consistently identified myself based on what I knew to be true."

In 1991, Smith had written an essay that accused white women of wanting to "become Indian" so they could "escape responsibility and accountability for white racism."

Angela Davis, an Indigenous activist, once described Smith as "one of the greatest Indigenous feminist intellectuals of our time."

Smith was hired by the University of California, Riverside in late 2008. The university announced that Smith will resign from her post next August. Smith will not be subjected to an investigation and will be able to keep retirement benefits, as well as her professor emeritus status, according to the university.

Under conditions of a reached agreement, the university explained that “Professor Smith agrees to not make any affirmative claims of Native American heritage in connection with her university work for the duration of her university employment. However, if asked about her heritage in connection with her university work, Professor Smith is permitted to disclose her opinion on her Native American heritage."

According to the outlet, the university will cover up to $5,000 of Smith's legal fees.

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