Posted on August 30, 2023

UC Riverside Professor Accused of Claiming False Cherokee Heritage Resigns

Corky Siemaszko, NBC, August 28, 2023

A prominent ethnic studies professor accused of falsely claiming to be Cherokee is stepping down from her post at the University of California Riverside — and she’s getting a soft landing.

Not only is Andrea Smith being allowed to keep teaching classes there through August 2024, she’ll get to keep her retirement benefits and retain the title of professor emeritus, according to a separation agreement released by the university.

And Smith can continue claiming to be Cherokee — but only if asked.

“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,” according to the agreement. {snip}


Smith has not divulged anything about her family tree but in a 2015 blog post she decried “identity-policing.”

“I have always been, and will always be Cherokee. I have consistently identified myself based on what I knew to be true,” she wrote.

The “Separation Agreement and Release of All Claims,” which appears to have been first posted on Instagram Aug. 17 by a Native-American activist named Jacqueline Keeler, states that Smith’s downfall came after the university received a complaint on Aug. 23, 2022 from 13 UC Riverside faculty members alleging that she “made fraudulent claims to Native American identity.” {snip}


Questions about Smith’s claims about being Cherokee first surfaced in 2008, when the University of Michigan sparked an uproar by denying her tenure.

Political activist Angela Davis described Smith at the time as “one of the greatest Indigenous feminist intellectuals of our time.”

But Steve Russell, a Cherokee academic and writer reported in an April 2008 column for Indian Country Today that Smith was not registered as a member of the Cherokee Nation. His column was titled “When does ethnic fraud matter?”


Back in 1991, Smith wrote an essay in which she pilloried white New Age feminists for trying to “become Indian.”

“When white ‘feminists’ see how white people have historically oppressed others and how they are coming to very close to destroying the earth, they often want to dissociate themselves from their whiteness,” Smith wrote, using the byline Andy Smith. “They do this by opting to ‘become Indian.’ In this way, they can escape responsibility and accountability for white racism.”