UC Berkeley professor apologizes for claiming to be Native American: ‘I am a white person'

 A University of California, Berkeley, professor has apologized for claiming to be Native American after years of her identity being questioned. 

Elizabeth Hoover, an anthropology associate professor at UC Berkeley, issued an apology Monday for falsely identifying as Indigenous in a letter on her website titled, “Letter of Apology and Accountability.”

“I am a white person who has incorrectly identified as Native my whole life, based on incomplete information,” Hoover wrote in the letter. 

In this 2020 image taken from video, Elizabeth Hoover, UC Berkeley associate professor of environmental science, policy and management, conducts an interview with Indian Country Today.

Hoover said her family claimed to be Native American and she identified as a woman of Mohawk and Mi’kmaq descent. Hoover said she never confirmed it with these communities or researched her heritage.

Hoover began teaching at UC Berkeley in the fall of 2020 where said her identity was challenged for the first time. And in 2021, Hoover’s name appeared on an “Alleged Pretendian List” compiled by Jacqueline Keeler, a Native American writer and activist. The list included the names of more than 200 people that Keeler said were falsely claiming Native heritage.

“I interpreted inquiries into the validity of my Native identity as petty jealousy or people just looking to interfere in my life,” Hoover said. “I was wrong and should have done my due diligence in response to those who were only guarding the integrity of their community.” 

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Elizabeth Hoover’s false roots

Hoover first addressed the claims about her identity in an October 2022 post to her website where she said she conducted genealogical research to verify her descent and found “no records of tribal citizenship for any of my family members in the tribal databases that were accessed.”

“Without any official documentation verifying the identity I was raised with, I do not think it is right for me to continue to claim to be a scholar of Mohawk/Mi’kmaq descent, even though my mother is insistent that she inherited this history for a reason,” she said in the October post.   

According to Hoover’s mother, her grandmother was a Mohawk woman who married a French-Canadian man. Hoover’s mother reclaimed her Mohawk heritage as an adult and shared it with her children, she said. 

“She took my sisters and me to ceremonies and powwows as kids to connect us to our heritage,” Hoover said. “My dad’s family said his grandma was Mi’kmaq, which was also something we were proud of but never quite as close to.”

Students demand Hoover's resignation

A month after Hoover posted the letter, former students demanded her resignation , calling for her to acknowledge the harm she caused, apologize and stop identifying as Indigenous.

“By claiming a false identity on grant and job applications, Hoover robbed Indigenous scholars of these opportunities,” the letter said. 

In Monday's letter, Hoover admitted she received “academic fellowships, opportunities and material benefits” that she may not have received if she didn’t identify as Native.

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