LeClaire, who identifies as Native American and "two-spirit," an indigenous term used to describe a non-binary identity, has been selling intricate bead and basket work on Etsy for years, with accompanying stories describing dreams and visions that inspired the pieces, according to the New York Post.
The real creators of the artwork have come forward to claim the pieces as their own on multiple occasions, according to a Native American administrator who has known LeClaire since 2020.
"[LeClaire] passed off people's crafts as their own, and made up stories about the visions," said Jon Greendeer, the health and wellness coordinator at the Ho-Chunk Nation, in Black River Falls, Wisconsin. "In this way, [LeClair] did more damage than any European colonizers did in the old days."
LeClaire has claimed since 2017 to be of Metis, Oneida, Anishinaabe, Haudenosaunee, Cuban, and Jewish heritage.
Greendeer, the former president of the 8,000-strong Ho-Chunk Nation, told The Post that his community has been shocked by LeClaire, who has spoken and written extensively about the appropriation of indigenous culture throughout Wisconsin.
"[LeClaire] fooled a lot of people even though a lot of what they spoke was Google and Wikipedia knowledge," Greendeer said, adding that the supposed artist was "a master when it suited them, but they created a house of cards."
LeClaire is accused of using the "welcoming and open nature" of Wisconsin's indigenous communities to LeClair's advantage, creating a completely fake persona. Very little was known of LeClair's real life, including the fact that LeClair had a husband, a research specialist at the University of Wisconsin named Adam Pagenkopf.
"Kay was married?" said Greendeer. "It just goes to show you that I don’t know anything anymore. None of us knew who Kay LeClaire is. I don't know what they said they did and what they actually did."
LeClaire has commented very little since the accusations emerged, but LeClair did issue an apology statement to Madison365 earlier in the week.
"A lot of information has come to my attention since late December," LeClaire said. "I am still processing it all and do not yet know how to respond adequately. What I can do now is offer change. Moving forward, my efforts will be towards reducing harm by following the directions provided by Native community members and community-specified proxies."
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