Wisconsin artist Kay LeClaire accused of faking Native American heritage

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Wisconsin artist Kay LeClaire accused of faking Native American heritage

The co-owner of a queer Indigenous artists’ collective in Wisconsin is facing accusations of being white after claiming to hold Native American heritage, according to a report.

Kay LeClaire, who identifies as non-binary, allegedly faked their indigenous heritage and used the front to make money, according to a local outlet.

LeClaire was accused in an online forum of actually being white after claiming since 2017 they were of Metis, Oneida, Anishinaabe, Haudenosaunee, Cuban and Jewish heritage, Madison 365 reported on Tuesday.

LeClaire, also a founding member of the collective and emerging leader in the Madison Indigenous arts community, earned artist stipends, a paid residency at the University of Wisconsin, speaking gigs, and art exhibitions with the help of their Native American claim.

But LeClaire, who went by the Native American name nibiiwakamigkwe, was allegedly exposed after a hobbyist genealogist posted evidence of LeClair’s real genealogy on an online forum, Madison 365 reported. The online forum user, AdvancedSmite, told Madison 365 that questions about LeClaire’s claims led to some digging.

Kay LeClaire in 2012
Kay LeClaire earned artist stipends and a paid residency at the University of Wisconsin with the help of their Native American claim.
via Madison365

The user, who did not want to reveal their actual identity to the outlet, used online records and resources to connect LeClaire’s lineage to German, Swedish and French Canadian and posted the findings on a forum.

LeClaire didn’t answers questions when contacted by Madison 365, but instead sent a long statement. LeClaire reportedly said any culturally related items they had are being given back to the community and vowed not to seek new grants while taking themselves off current grants.

“I am sorry,” they reportedly wrote. “A lot of information has come to my attention since late December. I am still processing it all and do not yet know how to respond adequately. What I can do now is offer change.

Kay LeClaire in traditional garb
The allegations have led to LeClaire’s removal from a collective artist group.
via Madison365

“Moving forward, my efforts will be towards reducing harm by following the directions provided by Native community members and community-specified proxies. Currently, this means that I am not using the Ojibwe name given to me and am removing myself from all community spaces, positions, projects, and grants and will not seek new ones.”

It’s unclear what that information from December was.

The collective said in an Instagram post the organization and LeClaire parted ways as of Dec. 31, 2022.

“The collective at giige would like to extend our gratitude and utmost sympathy to the Indigenous community within and surrounding Teejop in the wake of the recent revelation of the many harms committed by former co-founder Kay Le Claire,” part of the post read. “Evidence has come to light indicating that Kay Le Claire has made false claims regarding their heritage, their art, and their position in the community.”

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