They’re coming for white lies.
A list of allegedly fake Native Americans has begun circulating in tribal and academic circles, accusing 195 people of falsely claiming an Indian identity for personal gain.
The “Alleged Pretendians List” is the creation of Jacqueline Keeler, a Native American writer and activist who has spent years busting fakers in politics and academia.
“Everyone on this list has made public claims through interviews, in books authored, documentaries, and even in Congressional testimony. They are also all monetizing their claims. These are not privately-held beliefs,” reads her introduction. “We will release the names and findings of all those who are found to have no relation to the American Indian tribe they claim in the United States.”
The list is a hodgepodge, with some entries containing detailed genealogical records to back up the claims, while others offer little beyond Keeler’s j’accuse. The list contains both those being probed and those who have already been disavowed by tribes they claim affiliation with.
The list includes well-known imposters and claimants like Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Johnny Depp, but also less well-known figures in media and the arts.
Nadema Agard, a New York City visual artist who claims Lakota, Cherokee, and Powhatan ancestry, is named. Keeler insists Agard’s heritage traces itself back to Barbados and showed genealogical records which she said backed up the assertion.
Agard denied faking her ancestry and called the allegations from Keeler a “witch-hunt,” and sent her own slew of documents which she said backed up her claim.
Many of the accused sit in prestigious academic perches. Dartmouth’s assistant undergraduate dean, Susan Taffe Reed, is named. In 2015 Reed was forced out as director of the school’s Native American Program over allegedly faking membership in the Eastern Delaware Nations.
Reed did not respond to request for comment from The Post.
The issue of Pretendians made headlines last month when Canada’s top indigenous health expert, Carrie Bourassa, was ousted after her claims of membership in the Métis nation were debunked. Researchers found her people actually originated from Eastern Europe and Russia.
Keeler, 53, a member of the Navajo Nation, was born in Cleveland to parents who went there as part of a voluntary relocation program by the Bureau of Indian Affairs in the mid-20th century
“I am an enrolled Navajo Nation citizen. My mom’s full Navajo. My dad is 5/8ths Yankton Dakota, but they had to choose a tribe,” she told critics in March. “My grandparents didn’t even speak English! Only Navajo!”
Keeler said she was inspired to create the document this year in response to a New York Times op-ed by Claudia Lawrence — a freelance journalist who has since been accused of being a Pretendian. The op-ed was a letter of advice to Deb Haaland, a Native American who had just been nominated to serve as President Biden’s Interior Secretary.
“Ms. Lawrence was unable to provide evidence of Native ancestry; she is not an enrolled member of any federally or state-recognized tribe,” an editor’s note above the Times piece now reads. “If the editors had known that there were questions about her connection to the Native community, this essay would not have been published until those questions had been resolved.”
Lawrence is on the list. The Native American Journalists Association has since rescinded Lawrence’s membership.
“Ethnic fraud, particularly against native people is huge,” Keeler said. “There is an element of narcissism. There is a lack of empathy because they will retaliate against native people who try to expose their fraud.”
Keeler said the list was a collaboration of many researchers, journalists and activists, but that she had been the one to compile those efforts into a single place.
Keeler says she and other researchers capped the list at 200 to help make the investigative caseload manageable, but that the true number of alleged fraudsters is closer to 500.
Keeler’s list is controversial within native communities as well. A parody website lists her and like-minded natives as “Karendians.”
Rhiana Yazzie, a Native-American playwright, said she had mixed feelings about the list.
“Pretendians are a major problem yet I’m disturbed that there’s a list like this that feels arbitrary. I’m not sure who is investigating and what the consequences are,” she said.