Miscommunication or Misrepresentation – What’s the Cost of Cultural Fraud?December 31, 20162 min read
A recent investigation by the Aboriginal People’s Television Network (APTN) dug into and questioned the true the lineage of award winning author Joseph Boyden. Boyden has won the Scotiabank Giller Prize, was nominated for the Governor General’s award, is a member of the Order of Canada and was an honorary witness at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
The result of the investigative report by APTN has set off a coast-to-coast-to coast debate on the legitimacy of Boyden’s ancestry.
But at what cost? Boyden is an acclaimed advocate for Aboriginal culture. He is recognized, praised and respected as an author and promoter of Indigenous culture and history. He has also been the recipient of grants and awards for his writing that were meant only for First Nations people. Part of the ongoing debate is if he should have rightly applied and accepted those funds.
Whether ethnic fraud took place or not may never be truly decided. But the topic is a valid one to explore and this is not the first case. Canada has a long history of those portraying and imitating its First nations peoples for the sake of profit and attention.
So, the questions remain, who can represent Canada’s Aboriginal people? Who should and who should not? Has the goal, purpose and hard work of an author like Joseph Boyden been lost by accusations about his lineage? Should Boyden or anyone else portraying Indigenous culture or art be more forthright about their bloodlines? Or should they have too at all?
The topic is sensitive and difficult to navigate for any journalist looking to accurately and objectively explore and explain.
Our experts can help.
Richard Ouellet is the Director of the Wabnode Centre for Aboriginal Services at Cambrian College. He is an expert in Indigenous education, culture and engagement and has his PhD in History, Anthropology and Law. He has experience with broadcast media and is available to speak with journalists regarding this very important issue. Simply click on Richard's icon to make contact and arrange an interview.