Indigenous Arts Activist Fakes Native American Heritage

When the people in a position of power in local committees are exposed for dishonest lies, it throws their credibility and work into a critical light. Kay LeClaire, who identifies as non-binary, impersonated the indigenous heritage and leveraged their false identity to make money.

Based on reports, LeClaire has been saying they are of Metis, Oneida, Anishinaabe, Haudenosaunee, Cuban and Jewish heritage for over six years. LeClaire’s identity was called into question after an online forum revealed them as being white.

A hobbyist genealogist submitted proof of LeClaire’s real genealogy to the online forum. The user, AdvancedSmite, collected online records to relate LeClaire’s lineage to German, Swedish and French Canadian ancestors and posted the results.

This is a problematic finding for LeClaire as they are a leader in the Madison Indigenous arts community and have used their identity to gain artist stipends, a paid residency at the University of Wisconsin, speaking gigs, and art exhibitions.

LeClaire submitted a public apology after the truth came to light. “I am sorry,” LeClaire said. “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.

“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.”

The collective sent out a public apology in an online post. “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 LeClaire,” part of the post read. “Evidence has come to light indicating that Kay LeClaire has made false claims regarding their heritage, their art, and their position in the community.”