Aly Bear, vice-chief of the Federation of Sovereign Indian Nations (FSIN), says she acted too soon when she signed a public statement of support for Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, following the publication of a CBC report questioning Turpel-Lafond’s Aboriginal claims. ancestry.
On October 12, a CBC investigation presented evidence that Turpel-Lafond’s decades-long claim to be a treaty Indian of Cree ancestry was in doubt.
Following the publication, several Indigenous organizations, including the FSIN, issued press releases offering their support for Turpel-Lafond.
The FSIN represents First Nations in Saskatchewan.
The FSIN statement states that it “supports our First Nations governments and their inherent right to determine their membership and citizenship based on their customs, practices and traditions. I support the Muskeg Lake Cree Nation and its member, Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond.
It was signed by Vice Chief Aly Bear.
Bear now says she regrets it.
“Since then, new information has come to my attention and I wish to withdraw my previous statement,” she wrote on Thursday. “I apologize for this statement made.”
While Bear won’t say what new information caused her to change her mind, she does say she no longer believes Turpel-Lafond is Indigenous.
“Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond’s ancestry has been discovered to be unrelated to Indigenous roots,” she wrote. “I do not support false claims of Indigenous identity by non-Indigenous people.”
Fake ancestry claims ‘extremely offensive’
Bear, a member of the Whitecap Dakota First Nation in Saskatchewan, pointed out that although she has changed her mind about Turpel-Lafond, she still firmly believes that “our nations have the sovereign right to determine who they belong to.”
Bear said the fact that Turpel-Lafond had a successful career while falsely claiming Indigenous ancestry is “extremely offensive.”
“These actions contribute to the barriers that Indigenous peoples face, due to colonialism, intergenerational trauma and racism.”
Bear said she is committed to working with others to weed out false ancestry claims.
“We must continue to call out those who use Indigenous ancestry as a means of accessing spaces reserved for Indigenous peoples but have no real connection to Indigenous ancestry,” she wrote.
Union of BC Chiefs offers ‘no comment’
After the original CBC story was published, Turpel-Lafond’s strongest defense came from the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs (UBCIC). In its statement, the organization defended her as “a fierce, ethical and groundbreaking advocate for Indigenous peoples for decades, including representing UBCIC for more than five years and a long working relationship before that.”
This statement condemned the CBC story as “tabloid-style”.
“Ancestry surveys of individuals, filled with personal photos and delving into private matters, do not advance justice, the realization of rights and reconciliation,” the October 12 statement said.
Earlier this week, CBC released the birth certificate of Turpel-Lafond’s father, William Turpel, which states he was the child born to British parents, not an adopted Cree boy of undetermined parentage like Turpel-Lafond l ‘asserted.
In the early hours of the next morning, CBC received a message from a Gmail account in the name of Stewart Phillip UBCIC. Stewart Phillip is the name of the Grand Chief of UBCIC.
“Garbage. Yellow journalism. Tabloid shit. Misogynist!!” says the email.
CBC called Phillip on his personal cell phone to discuss the email, but he hung up.
Then CBC sent him a copy of that email, asking if he would be willing to discuss it.
“No comment,” was his response to multiple requests.