nīhithiwihkānak – people pretending to be Cree
I recently read a couple of posts on LinkedIn by Jason EagleSpeaker that have inspired me to write about the same topic.
And this one:
These posts reminded me of Grey Owl, and how he had portrayed himself as a First Nation. I heard that he lived at Prince Albert National Park. A group of people were talking about it in my Native Studies 10 class, they mentioned that they visited Grey Owl’s Cabin near Waskesiu Lake.
Although he died in 1938, I had only heard a mention, or two, of Grey Owl. After the discussion in my class, it turns out that he was not even an Indian. He was an Englishmen from Hastings. About six-years after I learned all of this, a film was released in 1999, starring Pierce Brosnan (Yes, James Bond). It was simply titled: “Grey Owl.” I enjoyed it and I kind of knew how it was going to go, so that was no surprise. The real surprise, was James Bond trotting around, looking so Indigenous. It was actually pretty cool.
So, the exposé of Grey Owl, not being an actual Indigenous man, was not shocking to me, because his existence was from a previous time, and it was well known. He does have an interesting story and if you are interested, please find links below this article.
The first unexpected revelation to me, was that of a professional wrestler named: Chief Jay Strongbow. He wrestled in, what is now known as WWE, during the 70s and 80s. By the time I learned he was an Italian American, I already accepted that pro-rasslin’ was scripted. Like a theatrical play, there are “actors” pretending to fight and presenting all kinds of drama for the fans. I was disappointed, but not “shocked.” On a side note, I was very happy to learn that Chief Wahoo McDaniel and Tatanka were real “Indians” and not Pretendians. I have read an article where Ultimate Warrior was asked if he was portraying a Native American, but that concept was squashed by Warrior himself.
The first real shock to me on the revelation of a Pretendian, was the author of Three Day Road, Joseph Boyden. When my university class used his book for assignments and discussion, there was no doubt in my mind that he was an Indigenous man. My class covered the entire book, and we had great discussions over the characters and of Indigenous men in world war history.
I enjoyed the book and was fascinated by the tale of Xavier and Elijah, two young Cree men who volunteered to go to war and became snipers. Boyden, I imagined, was a great First Nations man who was successfully presenting Indigenous people as having great potential. While Indigenous people do have great potential, the farce of Boyden really pissed me off. Why did he not just represent himself as what he was? I do not feel it is wrong to be inspired by another nationality, however, honesty is very important in these matters. Might he actually be Indigenous? Hmm, maybe he should have mentioned it at the beginning and had been forthright about his heritage. Instead, many of us foolishly assumed he was First Nation because of the books.
Anyway, there have been other reveals in the past few years and I am not really surprised, especially by people involved in the entertainment industry and politics. A prominent author of many popular Indigenous books would seem to be of First Nation ancestry, but I guess we all learned our lesson. If anything, it has made me question anyone, who “claims” to have Native blood in their ancestry. So, thank you for that Mr. Boyden.
EAGLESPEAKER PUBLISHING – https://www.eaglespeaker.com/
Eaglespeaker.com on LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/company/eaglespeakerpublishing/
Jason EagleSpeaker on LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/eaglespeaker/
Chief Jay Strongbow (Wiki) – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chief_Jay_Strongbow
Grey Owl – https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0128239/?ref_=tt_mv_close
Grey Owl (Wiki) – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grey_Owl_(film)
Joseph Boyden’s Apology and the Strange History of ‘Pretendians’ – https://www.vice.com/en/article/yppmdv/joseph-boydens-apology-and-the-strange-history-of-pretendians
Author Joseph Boyden’s shape-shifting Indigenous identity – https://www.aptnnews.ca/national-news/author-joseph-boydens-shape-shifting-indigenous-identity/
MĀSIHKĪWIN – WRESTLING, WAHOO MCDANIEL – https://firstnationstories.com/?p=3277
TATANKA – MĀSIHKĪWIN – WRESTLING – https://firstnationstories.com/?p=3290