University president on paid leave amid questions over Indigenous identity: 'I deeply apologize'
Canadian university head says, 'I sincerely regret any hurt or confusion sharing my story may have caused'
Memorial University President Vianne Timmons decided to go on voluntary paid leave after she became engulfed in a scandal surrounding her claimed Indigenous heritage.
In a statement released Monday, Timmons apologized for any pain her disputed claims to Indigenous ancestry have caused. Memorial University is an academic institution located in Newfoundland and Labrador, a Canadian province.
The controversy stems from Timmons claiming she has never benefited from her Indigenous ancestry, which she maintains is different from Indigenous identity.
"While I have shared that I am not Mi’kmaw and I do not claim an Indigenous identity, questions about my intentions in identifying my Indigenous ancestry and whether I have benefited from sharing my understanding of my family’s history have sparked important conversations on and beyond our campus," Timmons conceded.
NATIVE AMERICAN LEADER DENOUNCES INDIGENOUS FESTIVAL BY ‘MADE-UP GROUP': ‘WOULDN’T BE CAUGHT DEAD'
She claims she joined the Bras d'Or Mi'kmaq First Nation tribe, a tribe which is not recognized by Native Americans or Canada's federal government, for a brief time around 2009 when her brother submitted their genealogy.
"But then I looked into it on my own and I didn't feel comfortable identifying as a member of a band that wasn't official or as a member of a band anyway because I was not raised Mi'kmaw and so I removed it and never referred to it again," Timmons said.
However, public documents, including a CV as recent as 2016, show she claimed membership in the tribe over a longer period of time and CBC News found references as late as 2018.
"I have been reflecting on this feedback from the Indigenous community, and I sincerely regret any hurt or confusion sharing my story may have caused. That was never my intention and I deeply apologize to those I have impacted," Timmons said.
The embattled university president said she welcomed Memorial University's Board of Regents' decision to host an Indigenous-led round table discussion about the matter.
NATIVE AMERICAN TRIBE BARRICADING WISCONSIN FAMILIES IN HOMES HAS RECIEVED MILLIONS OF DOLLARS IN GOVT FUNDS
"I am wholeheartedly supportive of this process to seek Indigenous guidance and knowledge. Indigenous Peoples must lead this conversation and we all have a role to play in listening and ensuring their voices are elevated in the weeks to come," she said.
CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP
There have been several high profile cases of individuals claiming Native American ancestry for their own professional advancement in recent years. During the 2020 campaign, then-President Trump blasted Sen. Elizabeth Warren as "Fauxcahontas" after it was reported that she claimed Native American heritage at various points throughout her life; she later admitted she was wrong to do so.
More recently, Dylan Whiteduck, the chief of Kitigan Zibi Anishinābeg, accused a purported Native American social justice organization of not actually being run by Native Americans and distributing fake ID cards to people who are not Native American.