Emily Carr University in Vancouver, Canada, hired Gina Adams, an American artist, in 2019 as part of a national effort to recruit more Indigenous students and faculty members to higher education. But Adams, who publicly claimed to have an Ojibwe grandfather who was forced into a residential school, resigned last month amid allegations that she’d faked her Indigenous heritage, according to the Vancouver Sun. “Emily Carr University takes very seriously the allegations that a member of our faculty made a false claim to Indigenous identity,” the university said in a statement, confirming Adams’s resignation. It promised to review its hiring policies to “align with our deep commitment to reconciliation.”
Allegations that Adams was a “pretendian,” or someone falsely claiming Indigenous ancestry, surfaced last year on an anonymous Twitter account. According to the tweets by @NoMoreRedFace, Adams’s grandfather was not Ojibwe from Minnesota but a white French-Canadian man named Albert Theriault who was born in Massachusetts. An investigative report published this week in Maclean’s arrives at the same conclusion. (The article was written by Michelle Cyca, a member of the Muskeg Lake Cree Nation and former communications staff member at Emily Carr.)
Adams, who by 2021 was an assistant dean at Emily Carr, initially circulated a statement to select colleagues saying that her grandfather was indeed Theriault, but that he was of Chippewa: Ojibwe-Lakota descent, according to Maclean’s. She reportedly later applied to the White Earth Nation but was rejected because none of her relatives could be found in their database. A heritage statement on Adams’s website says that “I have been transparent about my lineage throughout my life. I am Ojibwa by descent only and not enrolled. My continued research on our ancestry is ongoing, and private to be shared with only myself and my family.” Earlier this summer, Queen’s University in Canada apologized for a case involving six alleged pretendian professors there. And last year, a curator at Simon Fraser University in Canada resigned amid questions about her stated Indigenous identity.