A specialist in Native American cuisine reconsiders his identity

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Native American food systems and food sovereignty scholar Elizabeth Hoover, an associate professor of environmental science, policy and management at the University of California, Berkeley, is the latest professor to backtrack on the claim of Native American identity. Hoover, who has long described herself as being of Mohawk and Mi’kmaq descent, said in a statement posted on her website that although she grew up in and around Native American spaces in the upstate of New York City, “following recent questions about my identity, I, along with others, conducted genealogical research to verify the tribal ancestry with which my family raised me, by digging through databases online, archival and census data.While it is clear that racial identifications in census records are complicated and sometimes unclear (especially since the only racial identification options for a long time were white, blacks and mulattoes), we have to date found no tribal citizenship records for any of my family members in the tribal databases that have been searched. Essentially what I am left with now is that I have no d official document to verify how my family identified themselves.

Now, she says, “Without any official documentation confirming the identity I was raised with, I don’t think it’s fair for me to continue to claim to be a scholar of Mohawk/Mi’kmaq descent, even though my mother insists she inherited this story for a reason. As such, I have approached my friends, collaborators, students, colleagues and members of the general public, to share this information about my identity and reform these relationships as needed.

Berkeley said in a statement, “We consider the issue of Elizabeth Hoover’s ethnic identity to be a deeply personal matter,” and the university will “respect [Hoover’s] statement that she “does not think it is right for me to continue to claim to be a scholar of Mohawk/Mi’kmaq descent”. Our future communications on campus will be consistent with his position. Berkeley said he did not consider racial or tribal affiliation in employment decisions, and Hoover was not part of a recruiting group, as has been reported elsewhere.

Hoover’s apology has been criticized by some as continuing to hurt Native Americans, including equating his own childhood trauma with being Native. Hoover was the recipient of a Ford Foundation Fellowship in 2009-2010, and that program considers Native American (or other underrepresented ethnic group) identity a “positive” factor but not required for selection. Hoover was also a Ford postdoctoral fellow in 2014-2015. In response to some students’ reactions to his social media updates, Hoover said via email that “I have worked hard to be as supportive as possible of the students I work with, and when evaluating student work. ‘a student, it is based solely on the sole quality of this academic work.

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