Native American watchdog group the Tribal Alliance Against Frauds (TAAF) recently demanded an apology from Hollywood producer Heather Rae over lying about her background.
Fifty-six-year-old Rae, who serves on the Academy of Motion Pictures’ Indigenous Alliance, has previously stated that she came from an “Indian” mother and a “cowboy” father while several news outlets reported her as having a “Cherokee” parent. However, the New York Post reported about recent claims by Native American activists insist that Rae is, at best, only 1/2048th Cherokee.
According to the TAAF’s research, Rae has no ancestors recognized by the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, the Eastern Band of Cherokee and the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians. In addition, a divorce certificate from 1969 listed both of Rae’s parents as White.
“Being an American Indian person is not just about who you claim to be, it is about who claims you,” Tribal Alliance Against Frauds director Lianna Costantino told the New York Post. “And it’s much more than just race. We are citizens of sovereign nations. Being an Indian is a legal, political distinction.”
The closest connection TAAF could recognize as a possible Cherokee connection was Rae’s fourth great-grandparent, which would make her 1/2048th Cherokee.
Prior to this allegation, Rae headed up the Sundance Institute’s Native American program. She also worked as “narrative change strategist” for the “unapologetically ambitious and innovative Native women-led” organization IllumiNative which sought to amplify “contemporary Native voices.”
Her most recent film “Fancy Dance” was also partly funded by the Cherokee Nation and premiered at January’s Sundance Film Festival.
Following this claim, a source connected with IllumiNative allegedly told the Post, “It is important to note that blood quantum minimums and citizenship requirements within the Native community continues to be a sensitive and nuanced issue that has a dark and complicated history. Those within the Native community deserve the space and the agency to have these conversations.”
Prior to this accusation, the Native American community was rocked by another scandal in Oct. 2022. Activist Sacheen Littlefeather, who gained notoriety after rejecting Marlon Brando’s Best Actor award for “The Godfather” in his stead at the 1973 Academy Awards, was revealed to, in fact, have no Native American heritage.
After her death earlier that month, Littlefeather’s sisters Trudy Orlandi and Rosalind Cruz revealed that the activist, born Marie Louise Cruz, was not ethnically Native American. According to Orlandi and Cruz, Littlefeather had changed her name after believing to find Native American heritage and became more active in protests.
“It’s a lie. … My father was who he was. His family came from Mexico, and my dad was born in Oxnard,” Orlandi said.
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