January 18, 2010

Box-checkers and mock-checkers

Ethnic Fraud?

Tribal scholars say some faculty are falsely claiming American Indian heritage to boost their job prospects.

By Mary Annette Pember
According to Chenault, some job candidates simply “check the box” for American Indian/Alaskan Native on job forms, hoping to be identified as minority faculty and thus reap the benefits of any available affirmative action plans. There is responsibility, however, that comes with checking the box, she says. “We need committed, passionate people who will help other Native people gain access to universities and colleges.”

Chenault argues that not requiring proof of tribal enrollment reflects mainstream institutions’ lack of commitment to genuine diversity. She says allowing those with marginal tribal ties to represent the Native community only diminishes the importance of indigenous academics and opens the discipline to attack.

Haskell and the other tribal colleges require proof of tribal affiliation from all faculty and staff claiming American Indian heritage. Tribal colleges’ unique relationship with the federal government allows them to extend Native preference to students and staff. Chenault and the Association of American Indian and Alaska Native Professors say that standard for faculty should apply at all universities and colleges, whether mainstream or tribal.

“If a potential job candidate falsely claimed to have a Ph.D., that person would not be considered. It should be the same for those claiming to be Native American,”Chenault says.
And:Far more objectionable than those who simply “check the box” are the “mock checkers,” says Noley.

The term refers to those in academic programs who not only falsely claim tribal affiliation but also set themselves up as official purveyors of American Indian culture and religion. Some of the professors Noley has labeled as mock-checkers have been known to conduct so-called sacred ceremonies as part of their courses. Many of the ceremonies, however, are little more than amalgamations of parts of disparate ceremonies or outright fabrications.

The reports of questionable ceremonial activities have included stories of faculty taking students on trips to search for their power animals, teaching “sacred” dances, conducting ceremonies each time reservation land was crossed and others.

Chenault maintains that faculty who engage in these activities do a tremendous disservice to the Native community and academic disciplines. She says their presence marginalizes American Indian culture and eliminates opportunities for true, qualified American Indians. She speculates that a degree of racism lurks beneath the surface of mock-checkers.

“They seem to believe they are more knowledgeable than tribal people and therefore better advocates for tribes,” she says.
Comment:  "Haskell and the other tribal colleges require proof of tribal affiliation from all faculty and staff claiming American Indian heritage." So much for Russell Bates's idiotic claim that Indians don't require identity checks because they "know" which people are Indians.

For more on the subject, see Indian Wannabes and Defining Who's an Indian.

1 comment:

dmarks said...

Such things happen when places have "by the color of their skin, not by the content of their character" instead of equal rights.

I've known whites who have dug into genealogy for any evidence of Native ancestry, solely for box-checking rights.