Native activists accuse Hollywood producer of faking Cherokee background

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The Native American watchdog group, the Tribal Alliance Against Fraud (TAAF), recently demanded an apology From a Hollywood producer Heather Ray for lying about her background.

Fifty-six-year-old Ray, who works for the Aboriginal Alliance for the Motion Picture Academy, previously stated that she came from an “Indian” mother and a “Cowboy” father while several media outlets reported that she had a “Cherokee”. Parents. However, the The New York Post reported About recent claims by Native American activists, they insist that Ray is, at best, only 1/2048th of a Cherokee.

According to TAAF research, Ray has no recognized ancestors by the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, the Eastern Band of Cherokee, and the United Kitowa Band of Cherokee Indians. Additionally, a divorce certificate from 1969 listed both of Ray’s parents as white.

Heather Ray has worked for the Academy of Motion Picture Indigenous Alliance.

Heather Ray has worked for the Academy of Motion Picture Indigenous Alliance. (Jay L. Clendenen/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

“Being an American Indian isn’t just about who you claim to be, it’s about who claims you,” Liana Costanino, director of the Tribal Coalition Against Fraud, told the New York Post. “And this is much more than just race. We are citizens of sovereign nations. Being Indian is legal and political discrimination.”

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The closest contact TAAF can identify as a possible connection with the Cherokee was Ray’s fourth grandparent, making her 1/2048 of a Cherokee.

Prior to this claim, Ray headed the Sundance Institute’s Native American program. She also served as a “narrative change strategist” for the “ambitious and innovative Indigenous women-led” organization IllumiNative that sought to amplify “contemporary Indigenous voices”.

Her latest film, Fancy Dance, was funded in part by the Cherokee Nation and premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January.

Following the claim, a source associated with IllumiNative told The Post, “It is important to note that minimum blood quantity and citizenship requirements within the Native community remains a sensitive and delicate issue with a dark and complex history. The Native community deserves the space and agency to have these conversations.”

A woman dressed in Native American clothing attends a "There is no honor in racism rally" A rally in front of TCF Bank Stadium prior to the NFL football game between the Minnesota Vikings and Kansas City Chiefs, October 18, 2015, in Minneapolis.

A woman dressed in Native American clothing attends the “No Honor in Racism Rally” in front of TCF Bank Stadium prior to the NFL football game between the Minnesota Vikings and Kansas City Chiefs, October 18, 2015, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

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Prior to this accusation, the Native American community was hit with another scandal in October 2022. Activist Sacheen Littlefeather, who rose to fame after declining Marlon Brando’s Best Actor award for The Godfather at the 1973 Academy Awards, was revealed to have, in fact, They do not have Native American heritage.

After her death earlier that month, Littlefeather’s sisters, Trudy Orlandi and Rosalind Cruz, revealed that the activist, born Marie Louise Cruz, was not a Native American. According to Orlandi and Cruz, Littlefeather changed its name after it believed it was finding its Native American heritage and became more active in protests.

Orlandi said, “It’s a lie… My dad was the same. His family came from Mexico, and my dad was born in Oxnard.”

in September, Before Littlefeather’s death, Ray helped Academy members apologize to the activist for being “blacklisted” after the protest at the awards ceremony.

Sacheen Littlefeather passed away on October 2 at the age of 75, after a long battle with breast cancer.

Sacheen Littlefeather passed away on October 2 at the age of 75, after a long battle with breast cancer. (Hulton Archive)

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“Our support, celebration, and appreciation for Native American and Indigenous communities and storytellers does not end today… We are building a future of collaborative, conversational, and solution-oriented films. Representation without inclusion or access is not enough. I am also honored to be here with you today and look forward to our future, which is the future.” whom you have inspired so much. I would also like to reiterate our apologies and gratitude to you.”

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