Posted on September 9, 2022

White Daughter of Maine Pageant Queen Quits Role as Indigenous College Dean

Claudia Aoraha, Daily Mail, September 7, 2022

A college dean who landed her job by claiming to be a Native American artist who pedaled $35,000 quilts has resigned in disgrace after it was revealed she is the white daughter of a Maine pageant queen.

Alleged identity fraudster Gina Adams, 57, was born in Connecticut to white ancestors, and announced her resignation Tuesday.

She is said to have posed as a member of the White Earth Reservation to bolster her career, most recently as a professor of art and design and dean at Emily Carr University in Vancouver, Canada.

Adams claimed her grandpa was taken from the White Earth Reservation in Minnesota and forced into a Pennsylvania boarding school which was designed to ‘assimilate’ indigenous children into the American way of life. But an extensive investigation by Maclean’s says her claims are all lies.

Adams landed the college position in 2019 by claiming to be Native American, with the scandal now engulfing her likened to that of Rachel Dolezal, a white woman who shot to infamy after she was caught pretending to be black.

In 2018, Adams staged staged a show of quilts stitched with designs she claims were inspired by the nightmares she had about the abuse meted out to her Indigenous ancestors.

And at an event held at the Ivy League Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, Adams donning beaded jewelry and solemnly introducing herself by speaking Native American.

In an interview in 2020, Adams claimed that the idea for her ingenious-inspired artwork came to her in ‘dreams,’ courtesy of her to her Anishinaabeg ancestors – but her heritage has now been called into question.

Instead of the rich indigenous background she proclaimed in her job and artwork, Adams is the daughter of a former pageant star and great-granddaughter of a white World War One veteran, reports Maclean’s.

And White Earth Reservation – the community she claims to have descended from – declined her membership and said they couldn’t find any of her relatives who were enrolled as descendants.

She became a professor at the Emily Carr University of Art and Design in Vancouver, Canada, in August 2019 as part of a targeted cluster hire to employ more Indigenous faculty members.

Adams said that her great-great-grandfather was the Ojibwe chief Wabanquot – who was a signatory to the Treaty with the Chippewa of the Mississippi.

She said that her grandfather was born and raised on the White Earth Reservation in Minnesota – and would speak to her in Ojibwe when she had dramatic nightmares of Native Americans being massacred.

But when anonymous sleuths on Twitter started digging into her heritage, her rich tribal history – for which she had landed her job – seemed to come crashing down.

According to documents, her grandfather was in fact Albert Theriault – a white man born in Massachusetts in 1906 to French-Canadian parents.

And Albert’s father Henry Theriault – Gina’s great-grandfather – was also a far cry from Native American. In fact, he was also a white man who was drafted in First World War, according to census records and documents obtained by Maclean’s.

Her mother, Elaine, was a teenage pageant queen in York, Maine.

The bombshell expose revealed that the former professor and assistant dean of the University was peddling lies about her heritage – which she then profited off with her work, which she is said to sell for up to $35,000.

In an unearthed clip from 2018, greeted an audience in native Anishinaabemowin language: ‘Boozhoo, aaniin anishinaabee nowadow,’ before recanting her grandfather’s ‘troubled’ past.

Adams – now rather ironically – also warned those in the lecture about robbing people’s identities and trying to steal indigenous culture and use it for their own.

She said: ‘Appropriating is something that you should really be careful with, with any Indigenous culture.

‘You’re really robbing a culture, you’re really robbing an identity. You’re really just trying to own something that’s not yours.’

First bringing her false identity to light in March 2021, NoMoreRedFace accused Adams of faking her grandfather’s residential school survivor story, using her ‘native’ background to sell quilts for thousands, and land a job as a professor in Aboriginal art.

The internet investigator had tracked down her real family tree and called out her lies – but in the meantime she was still co-curator at an exhibition for indigenous artists Fruitlands Museum in eastern Massachusetts.

But Adams clapped back. In March last year, she sent an email to members of the University’s community detailing the convenient way her grandfather Albert had no birth certificate, changed his surname, and therefore had no link to Carlisle School, where he was sent to in his younger years.

In the statement, she said: ‘To those people on social media who have questioned my legitimate heritage, I say nothing.

‘To my gallerists, my university and my wider Indigenous communities whom I deeply respect, I am happy to share my family lineage.’

Her impassioned 1,500-word statement recounted about her grandparents’ marriage and her early childhood – but it allegedly lacked facts on the ancestry that was being scrutinized.

Instead, she said that her lack of direct evidence was partly due to the fact that when her grandfather married her Lithuanian grandmother, he changed the family name to ‘evade and thwart the serious miscegenation laws.’

Professor Mimi Gellman and Brenda Crabtree, who is the Aboriginal program manager at Adams’ university, backed the professor and allowed her to continue working – despite the sensational online accusations.

During her hiring process, they described her as ‘a contemporary Indigenous hybrid artist of Ojibwa Anishinaabe and Lakota descent.’

It was only when the claims of her lies were detailed by Maclean’s that her university said they are ‘carefully considering’ how to move forward with hiring people as part of their ‘indigenization’ campaign.

They confirmed Gina Adams resigned from her position at Emily Carr University on August 25, 2022.

Meanwhile, it was revealed that White Earth Reservation had declined her membership since they couldn’t track that she had any relatives linked to the tribe.

Shannon Heisler, the enrolments director for the community, told Maclean’s: ‘We don’t have her, or her parent or grandparent, with any links to this tribe.

‘People are upset because she’s been claiming she’s a descendant. I can’t find any documentation that would link her or her family to White Earth.’

Despite the rampant allegations of her identity fraud, as well as her job resignation, Adams’ website still says that she is ‘fascinated by stories passed down…from my own familiar heritage.’

She added: ‘There is a connection to what the ancient ones taught my ancestors, as this information was passed down generation to generation.’

In 2015, Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada made a call for the federal government to remove the education gap between Indigenous people and other Canadians – which was an initiative many colleges agreed to.

But as a result of creating fierce competition for Indigenous hires, many colleges have found themselves in the middle of identity fraud scandals.

Emily Carr University of Art and Design said in a statement: ‘Emily Carr University takes very seriously the allegations that a member of our faculty made a false claim to Indigenous identity.

‘The complex matter of Indigenous identity as it relates to hiring has been the subject of debate within universities and Indigenous communities in recent years. We welcome these conversations and along with our peers, ECU is grappling with these complexities as best practices rapidly advance.

‘Emily Carr University will continue making the necessary changes to ensure our hiring practices align with our deep commitment to reconciliation — and ensure that ECU continues to be an inclusive environment where Indigenous students, staff and faculty can thrive.’