An acclaimed Canadian novelist has tried to set the record straight following a media report that questioned his aboriginal heritage.
Joseph Boyden is the author of Through Black Spruce and The Orenda. The former won the Scotiabank Giller Prize and the latter was a finalist for the Giller and for the Governor General's English Language Prize.
Today, the New Orleans resident tweeted a response to an APTN feature article entitled "Author Joseph Boyden's shape-shifting Indigenous identity".
"I'm of a mixed blood background of mostly Celtic heritage, but also Nipmuc roots from Dartmouth, Massachusetts on my father's side and Ojibway roots from Notttawasaga Bay traced to the 1800's on my mother's side" Boyden wrote.
He acknowledged that there has been "some confusion" about his indigenous identity, for which he is partially to blame.
"As I've delved into my heritage over the last twenty-five years, I've used the term Metis in the past when referring to myself as a mixed blood person," he stated. "I do not trace my roots to Red River and I apologize to any Red River Metis I've upset."
APTN reported that the issue arose on December 22 "when the @IndigenousXca account fired off a series of tweets raising questions about the author’s identity claims".
"The @IndigenousXca account is shared on a regular basis by Indigenous thinkers, writers, journalists, researchers and academics," APTN noted. "Robert Jago, who is from the Nooksack Tribe in Washington State and whose family is registered with the Kwantlen First Nation in British Columbia, posted a video outlining Boyden’s various ancestry claims."
Maclean's magazine quoted Boyden's uncle Erl in 1956 saying he didn't have indigenous heritage.
Boyden maintained today that his uncle Erl "knew his roots but chose to publicly outright deny them".
"This was common practice in the 1940's and 1950's," he wrote.
Jago responded to Boyden's statement with 19 tweets, noting that Native people's identity came through enormous suffering and by fighting oppression. And he questioned Boyden's legitimacy as someone who could speak for indigenous people.