A California professor who has claimed to be Native American for her entire life recently revealed that she is actually White.
Elizabeth Hoover, an associate professor in the University of California Berkeley’s environmental science and policy management department, said she “incorrectly identified” herself as Native American due to “incomplete information,” according to a statement posted on Monday. “In uncritically living an identity based on family stories without seeking out a documented connection to these communities, I caused harm,” Hoover said.
Hoover claimed to be of Mohawk and Mi’kmaq descent, whose tribes were native to the northeastern part of the US and Canada, the New York Post reported. In the past, she has identified herself as “someone of mixed Mohawk, Mi’kmaq, French, English, Irish, and German descent and identity.”
The professor — who has written books about Native American food sovereignty and other issues — said she never had proper documentation to confirm or deny claims about her heritage. “Growing up I did not question who I was told I was, or how I identified,” Hoover said. “But as an adult, as an academic, I should have done my due diligence to confirm that my ancestors were who I was told they were.”
Hoover frequently attended protests for Native American issues, as well as food summits. She further admitted that she had access to resources that would not have been available if she identified only as White.
“Before taking part in programs or funding opportunities that were identity-related or geared towards under-represented people I should have ensured that I was claimed in return by the communities I was claiming,” Hoover went on to say.
If white privilege was really a thing, why are white professors at UC Berkeley incentivized to lie about being Native American?https://t.co/5xkPRx2eyw
— Charlie Kirk (@charliekirk11) May 5, 2023
After the apology was published, Adrienne Keene, an assistant professor at Brown University, Cherokee Nation citizen and former colleague of Hoover, stated that the Berkeley professor’s claims quickly fell apart upon investigation.
“I will say that this work was not particularly difficult nor did it require a lot of specialized knowledge — her story fell apart very quickly, within a few clicks, but the subsequent months were spent trying every avenue to find something that would explain her claims, triangulating and triple checking, looking in new databases, finding more and new documents, or going back another generation,” Keene wrote in a post on her own blog.
A petition demanding Hoover’s resignation received over 350 signatures last November, according to the Daily Californian. At Berkeley, she researched specializations in “Native American food systems, Native American environmental health movements, and Indigenous uses of fire.”
Hoover indicated that she would be staying on at the university and vowed to use the revelation to grow.
“I hurt Native people who have been my friends, colleagues, students, and family, both directly through fractured trust and through activating historical harms,” she said.
“This hurt has also interrupted student and faculty life and careers. I acknowledge that I could have prevented all of this hurt by investigating and confirming my family stories sooner. For this, I am deeply sorry.”