By Amber Dowling
The Canadian film and television industry has been rocked following allegations that prominent filmmaker and “Inconvenient Indian” director Michelle Latimer is not Indigenous, as she has claimed to be for the past 20 years.
The hurt and anger from the Indigenous filmmaking community that followed on social media has been palpable, drawing further attention to the need for systemic change as awards bodies and the funding arms Latimer has benefited from begin conversations about where to go next.
In an investigative piece published on Dec. 17, CBC News revealed Kitigan Zibi members refute Latimer’s claims to be of “Algonquin, Métis and French heritage, from Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg (Maniwaki), Quebec.” The news outlet also examined census records showing that Latimer’s grandfather was not Indigenous or Métis as she previously claimed, but French-Canadian. And a genealogist and researcher with an expertise in French-Canadian families independently examined Latimer’s heritage to reveal she has only two Indigenous ancestors — Marguerite Pigarouiche and Euphrosine-Madeleine Nicolet, who lived in the 17th century. All other family members were “easily identifiable as French Canadians, Irish, Scottish.”In other words, Michelle Latimer is white.
She’s about as Indian as Elizabeth Warren.
What are the rules, anyway? Nobody seems to know. Here we are 50 years into the Affirmative Action Era and nobody seems to be sure how exactly it all works.
“This is something that our Indigenous communities have been dealing with for a long time,” said Kawennáhere Devery Jacobs, a Mohawk actor from Kahnawake, Que. whose detailed response to the Latimer expose on Twitter has since gone viral.
Jacobs argued that if a person needs a genealogist to tell them they have a small amount of “Native blood” then they are simply not Indigenous. …
“When I walk into native spaces, if you claim a nation, generally, we just believe you because so rarely has there ever been a benefit to claiming native,” she continues.
This is one of the few articles about affirmative action fakers that points out that times have changed and it now pays to be a minority:
“Whereas now in Canada, there are so many grants and there are so many different forms of reparation, so there’s a lot of people coming out of the woodwork who have a small amount of ancestry [but] who’ve never grown up with the experience of being an Indigenous person, who are seizing these opportunities for their own personal gain. And I fundamentally believe that’s wrong.”
Jacobs advises that, going forward, funding bodies should ask applicants to distinguish whether they are Indigenous or if they have Indigenous ancestry; question which community claims them back (and verify those claims); and hire more Indigenous people to work on the production side. It’s also important, she adds, to make space for honesty and ensure no one is above question or criticism.
Why not a published DNA test to be entitled to affirmative action benefits?
… “It’s really a double-edged sword,” says Drew Hayden Taylor, an Anishnawbe playwright, novelist, writer and documentary filmmaker who worked with Latimer when she appeared in one of his plays in Thunder Bay, Ont.
Who looks like a cross between Mickey Rourke and Matthew Broderick.
“There are so many perspectives. So many amazing government grants or funding agencies have a thing where you check off a box and say what you are, and people can check it off without having accurate representation or proof,” adds Hayden Taylor. “Whereas on the other side, being asked to constantly prove you’re native is also equally reprehensible and insulting. It’s this weird dichotomy.”
Latimer’s trailer, with its rapper in blackbody, looks stupid.
But still … fake Indian documentary director Michelle Latimer should move from Canada to Australia and declare herself an Aboriginal. The Aussies are so ardent for white people who claim to be Aboriginal that they would probably give her $100 million to direct Mad Max 5.
By the way, there is a strong Eskimo-made movie, Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner, which I reviewed here.
The director, Zacharias Kunuk, who was born on Baffin Island, looks like an authentic Inuit.
Although if you told me he was Japanese, I’d believe you too.