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Hollywood producer accused of faking Cherokee ancestry | American News

Questions about the Native American ancestry of film producer Heather Rae, known for being an activist for Native and Indigenous creators and projects in Hollywood, are being raised after a group released public family records that show no evidence of aboriginal ancestry.

The Tribal Alliance Against Frauds, an organization that reviews Indigenous ancestry claims from individuals and businesses that publicly represent Indigenous identity, told the New York Post that public family records show no connection to the tribal heritage of Rae. Citing research published in a blog post, the group said his family identified as white in several public records.

Rae, who was born in California and raised in Boise, Idaho, said her mother was Cherokee and identified as Native American throughout her career. She has not publicly commented on the accusations.

Rae has produced several films centered on Indigenous characters and stories, including 2008’s Frozen River, which won Sundance Institute awards and was nominated for two Oscars. She is part of the Indigenous Alliance at the Academy of Motion Pictures and previously led the Indigenous program at Sundance. Her husband, Russell Friedenberg, is also a film producer and her daughter, Johnny Sequoyah, is an actress.

Recently, Rae co-produced Fancy Dance, a film which premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and received financial support from the Cherokee Nation.

In a statement, the Cherokee Nation said Rae “is not a citizen of the Cherokee Nation.”

“She has no affiliation with the Cherokee Nation Film Office and has not been included in any funding it has provided to Fancy Dance,” said Brandon Scott, vice president of corporate communications for the companies of Cherokee Nation, at Native media.

Rae has previously stated that she is not an enrolled member of any tribal system. She told BuzzFeed News in 2017, when questions arose around the Indigenous heritage of Yellowstone actor Kelsey Asbille, who identified as Cherokee, “I know the tribe has an official position. about tribal identification, but there are a lot of indigenous people who include the diaspora who separate families from tribal systems.

An anonymous source close to IllumiNative, a nonprofit that champions Native American storytelling and where Rae serves as an adviser, told the New York Post that the quantum of blood — or measure of Native ancestry in the genetic background of person – and citizen demands “continue to be a sensitive and nuanced issue that has a dark and complicated history”.

“Indigenous community members deserve the space and the agency to have these conversations,” the source said.

Kim TallBear, who is Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate and professor of native studies at the University of Alberta, said on Twitter that the New York Post story on Rae shows “discussions about fractions and DNA testing are not nuanced enough.”

“But the revelation of a native identity fraud support system should be a wake-up call,” she wrote.

Many Native Americans in Hollywood have spoken out about the industry’s issues regarding Native representation on and off screen. Multiple studies of popular TV shows and movies have shown that Indigenous representation is generally at less than 1% of characters and low representation among other roles like screenwriters and directors.


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