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First Nations University hoping to lead conversation on Indigenous identity fraud with citizenship forum

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The First Nations University of Canada (FNUniv) is hoping to be a leader in the conversation on Indigenous identity fraud in academic institutions.

Through the National Indigenous Citizenship Forum (NICF), over 300 Indigenous post-secondary leaders came together Wednesday to create a framework for institutions to ensure Indigenous identify fraud does not continue.

“Indigenous communities should be engaged within these processes,” said FNUniv President Jackie Ottman. “There should be resources for this kind of work.”

The issue was brought into the limelight when it was discovered University of Saskatchewan (U of S) professor Carrie Bourassa had falsely claimed Indigeneity in November 2021.

According to independent researcher and NICF keynote speaker Jean Teillet, this type of identity fraud is nothing new.

“Despite it arising very publicly at the University of Saskatchewan, it is not by no means limited,” she said. “It is through the academy, throughout the country and in fact throughout North America.”

Last year, Teillet submitted a report to the U of S. She looked into the phenomena of white people claiming Indigeneity, why the trend happened and potential red flags post secondary institutions should look for to find what she calls, ‘fraudsters.’

“There’s two parts to it,” she explained. “Stopping new people from coming in who are fraudsters and dealing with those who are already embedded in the university.”

Ottman said non-Indigenous people are taking seats, grants and leadership positions meant for Indigenous people at some universities by claiming Indigenous identity.

The forum hoped to create policies and practices for other institutions to follow.

“I really hope university leadership will take these seriously,” she said. “And I hope they work with Indigenous people to ensure money and seats that are designated for Indigenous people go to Indigenous people.”

The NICF will send a framework of ideas back to university leaders across the continent.

Ottman said she wants to see self-identification abolished.

“I hope to see Indigenous peoples centred around our universities,” she said. “There is a collective strength that will emerge from these forums.

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