Michelle Latimer who was the director of the CBC Television series Trickster announced her resignation from season two of the show after it was revealed that she lied about being Indigenous.
"It's with a heavy heart that I am resigning from Season 2 of Trickster," Latimer wrote in the Facebook post.
Latimer's resignation has prompted some like author Jonathan Kay to posit that arts funding should not be based on DNA, and that if it is, then perhaps it ought to be eliminated.
Trickster is a TV series which stars Indigenous actors and is centered around a teenage Indigenous boy. Thus Latimer's deception is exceptionally hurtful in the context of the series, which was written by an Indigenous writer named Eden Robinson.
"I don't know how to deal with the anger, disappointment and stress. As wretched as this moment is, I'd rather know the truth," the author wrote. Robinson also said she is donating future royalties from the Trickster series to the Haisla Language Authority for the preservation of the Haisla Language.
Although in resignation, Latimer still attests to her Indigenous identity. She claims it comes from an "oral history," passed down from her Grandfather. Indigenous nations however, are not so liberal with handing our their identity and are outraged by her actions.
Indigenous Canadians are now deeply angered by Latimer, as she built an entire career upon a falsehood and made well over $400K in directing the series. In a NowToronto piece, Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers writes, "The Michelle Latimer story isn’t just about her claiming Indigenous ancestry. This story is also about how Canadian institutions uphold white supremacy in who is given access to resources and who is not."
Two producers from the show also resigned on Friday, leading to questions on whether the series has the bandwidth to continue.
Latimer's statement read:
"Recently, questions have been raised about my ancestry. I understand these concerns given the long history of colonialism and violence in Indigenous Nations. Identifying and honoring the connection to our ancestries and the specific communities from which we come is complicated, but I am committed to being accountable to my community and moving forward in a good way.
"As an artist of mixed Indigenous and settler ancestry, I know it is my responsibility to be clear and direct about my personal history and ancestral ties. This is a responsibility I have not only to myself, but also to my family, community, Indigenous filmmaking peers, and to all Indigenous people fighting for their sovereignty. I now realize that I made a mistake in naming Kitigan Zibi as my family’s community before doing the work to formally verify this linkage. I understand that there is an important difference between having this ancestry verified by the community of Kitigan Zibi and having it named and validated by members of my own family. I apologize and hold myself accountable for the impact this has had on the community of Kitigan Zibi and the Metis Nation.
"I know that when questions like these are raised, it hurts our entire community and undermines the years of hard work that so many have contributed towards raising Indigenous voices. I take responsibility for the strain this conversation is having on the people who have supported me, and I apologize as well for any negative impact on my peers in the Indigenous filmmaking community.
"In order to address this mistake, I have reached out to Elders and community historians in Kitigan Zibi, and the surrounding areas, to receive guidance and obtain verification. Community members have been sharing the oral history of the area with me and have highlighted the impact of colonialization on how people identify and claim their family lineage in this area. I have also hired a professional genealogist so that my family and I can understand our family history with greater clarity. I feel very fortunate that members of the community are willing to help me on this journey. I am also listening to the advice of an Indigenous community of peers and taking action by acknowledging that I have work to do, and I will be taking time to do this important and necessary work.
"I am grateful to the community members, Elders and peers who have offered their support and guidance during this time. These lessons, while difficult, offer an opportunity for reflection, and speak to the accountability that is necessary for advancing Indigenous sovereignty and liberation. I remain committed to lifting up the voices of Indigenous peoples, while also honouring and upholding the values of the multiple communities with whom I have relations and responsibilities.
"Like so many people, my journey to reclaim my history is ongoing. Through the help of a professional genealogist, my family has recently undertaken the work to collect written documentation of our history. At this point, on paper, I can formally trace through source documentation, one line of our Indigenous ancestry dating back to the 1700’s. I have met with leadership from the community this ancestry directly ties to, and they have verified my family connections and confirmed that this is an accepted ancestral line. I will continue to undertake the research and documentation necessary to ensure that I am honoring their protocols and values around self-governance. My family and I are also working on confirming other Indigenous ancestors, some of whom might have been misidentified.
"Our family history is mixed, and we don’t have all of the information, but I do know that our family resided in the Maniwaki/Kitigan Zibi area. Our family cabin is known by some in the community, and photos of our family members are included on the Kitigan Zibi website. Earlier this year, when we saw several of our family’s surnames on the Kitigan Zibi census it reinforced what we had heard. However, I do realize that I made a mistake in naming the community before doing the necessary work to reach out to community members to verify these connections.
"My grandfather was a hunting and fishing guide along Baskatong Lake. His family had a cabin there, and he resided there and around the Kitigan Zibi/Maniwaki area before he enlisted in World War II. He later migrated to Northern Ontario to find work in the gold mines and to raise his family. My grandfather talked about our family being Indigenous (sometimes he would say Metis) and we always thought he was from Kitigan Zibi, or one of the neighbouring communities. When he spoke about these communities he gave the impression that they were all connected, and that it was all the same land. My grandfather loved these lands and knew them like the back of his hand. Up until his death, he lamented not being able to return there.
"When I first identified as Indigenous as a teenager in the 1990s, I hoped that embracing my family’s heritage was a step towards reclaiming who we are while also moving out from under the strict Catholic upbringing in which my mother was raised. As I grew older, I began to work as an artist to create projects that supported Indigenous causes. The fight to uphold Indigenous rights and self-determination has been the focus of my work for the past twenty years and I remain committed to this cause."