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The Rector is on paid leave amid questions of Aboriginal identity

The Rector is on paid leave amid questions of Aboriginal identity


March 14, 2023 | 3:04 p.m

Memorial University President Vianne Timmons has decided to go on a voluntary paid leave after being mired in a scandal surrounding her alleged Native heritage.

In a statement released Monday, Timmons apologized for any pain her disputed claims about her parentage caused her. Memorial University is an academic institution located in Newfoundland and Labrador, a Canadian province.

The controversy stems from Timmons’ claim that she never benefited from her Aboriginal ancestry, which she asserts differs from Aboriginal identity.

“Although I shared that I am not a Mi’kmaw nor claim an Indigenous identity, questions about my intentions to identify my indigenous lineage and whether I benefited from sharing my understanding of my family history have sparked important conversations beyond our campus,” Timmons acknowledged. .

She claims to have joined the Bras d’Or Mi’kmaq First Nation, a tribe not recognized by Native Americans or the Canadian federal government, for a brief period around 2009 when her brother provided a genealogy.

“But then I looked at it on my own and didn’t feel comfortable being a member of a band that wasn’t official or as a member of a band anyway because I didn’t grow up on Mi’kmaw and so I removed it and never referred to it again,” said Timmons.

Viane Timmons has apologized for any pain her disputed claims about her indigenous ancestors have caused her.
Memorial University
Timmons claims she never made use of her Aboriginal ancestry, which she asserts is different from Aboriginal identity.

However, public documents, including a recent biography in 2016, show that she claimed membership in the tribe over a longer period of time, and CBC News found references in late 2018.

“I have been reflecting on these comments from the Aboriginal community, and I sincerely apologize for any hurt or confusion I may have caused by sharing my story. This was never my intention and I deeply apologize to those I have affected,” Timmons said.

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The embattled university’s president said she welcomed the decision of the Memorial University Board of Governors to host an Indigenous-led roundtable discussion on the issue.

Timmons claims to have joined the Bras d’Or Mi’kmaq First Nation for a brief period around 2009.

“I am very supportive of this process for Indigenous guidance and knowledge. Indigenous peoples must lead this conversation and we all have a role to play in listening and making sure that their voices are raised in the coming weeks.”

There have been several high-profile cases of individuals claiming Native American ancestry for their career advancement in recent years. During the 2020 campaign, President Donald Trump blasted Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) as “Fauxcahontas” after she reportedly claimed Native American heritage at various points throughout her life; She later admits that she was wrong to do so.

Recently, Dylan Witdock, president of Kitigan Zibi Anishinābeg, accused the purported Native American social justice organization of not being actually run by Native Americans and of distributing fake IDs to people who are not Native Americans.

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