The University of Wisconsin-Madison awarded a $5,000, 10-week residency to an art scholar who pretended to be of Native American descent, so the scholar could develop a "toolkit and curriculum around cultural appropriation," before resigning.
Kay LeClaire, who uses they/them pronouns, labeled themselves as "two spirit," an Indigenous term used to describe those who identify with both masculine and feminine qualities.
LeClaire had, for years, falsely claimed "Métis, Oneida, Ojibwe and Cuban heritage" and had even adopted an Ojibwe name, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
LeClaire also co-owned an Indigenous and queer art and tattoo parlor, they held a spot on the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Task Force and garnered recognition as a prominent Native American voice before the controversy emerged.
LeClaire, apologizing for the dustup, said "I'm sorry" in a statement. They didn't mention their race, but added that they would no longer use the Indigenous name taken in place of their real one and would abandon all projects or positions geared toward Indigenous identities to atone for their actions.
Aside from being awarded the paid residency, LeClaire got involved in other topics concerning the Indigenous community on UW Madison's campus, including criticizing the university for flying the Ho-Chunk flag, which, according to the institution, aimed to "educate the campus about Ho-Chunk culture and First Nation's history."
LeClaire, pretending to adopt an Indigenous lens, criticized the university for flying the tribal flag that is often displayed during National Native American Heritage Month or on Indigenous People's Day, alleging the move was performative.
LeClaire had also previously criticized a nearby music venue formerly known as Winnebago, slamming the venue's White owners for allegedly profiting from Native American identities.
"I'm glad the owners have decided to no longer profit from the identities of Indigenous peoples," LeClaire wrote in a February 2020 post published under their Ojibwe name in "Our Lives Wisconsin."... (Read more)
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