Wisconsin artist Kay LeClaire accused of faking Native American heritage

The co-owner of a Wisconsin native artist collection is facing accusations of being white after claiming to have Native American heritage, according to a report.

Kay LeClaire, who identifies as non-binary, is said to have rejected their indigenous heritage and used the opposition to make money, according to a local outlet.

LeClaire was accused in an online forum of being white after claiming since 2017 to be of Metis, Oneida, Anishinaabe, Haudenosaunee, Cuban and Jewish heritage, Madison 365 reported Tuesday.

LeClaire, who was also a founding member of the emerging and general director of Madison’s Native arts community, won an artist stipend, paid residency at the University of Wisconsin, speaking engagements, and art exhibits with the help of the application Native Americans.

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But LeClaire, who went by the Native American name nibiiwakamigkwe, was exposed after a genealogist hobbyist posted evidence of LeClair’s true genealogy on an online forum, Madison 365 reported. The forum user said online, AdvancedSmite, told Madison 365 that questions about LeClaire’s claims led to some digging.

Kay LeClaire in 2012
Kay LeClaire won an artist stipend and paid residency at the University of Wisconsin with the help of their Native American advocacy.
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The user, who did not want to reveal their identity to the outlet, used records and online resources to link the LeClaire line to German, Swedish and French Canadians and posted the findings on a forum .

LeClaire did not respond to questions when Madison 365 contacted him, but instead sent a lengthy statement. LeClaire reportedly said that any cultural items they had are being returned to the community and vowed not to seek new donations while removing current donations.

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“I’m sorry,” they reportedly wrote. “A lot of information has come to my attention since the end of December. I’m still fully processing it and I still don’t know how to respond appropriately. What I can do now is change the offer.

Kay LeClaire in traditional clothes
The allegations have led to LeClaire’s removal from the collective artist group.
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“Moving forward, my efforts to minimize harm will be by following the guidance given by members of the indigenous community and specific community representatives. Currently, this means that I am not using the Ojibwe name that was given to me and I am removing myself from all community places, roles, projects and contributions and will not be seeking new ones. .”

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It is not clear what that information was from December.

The group said in an Instagram post that the group and LeClaire parted ways as of December 31, 2022.

“The collective at gige would like to extend our deepest thanks and condolences to the indigenous community in and around Teejop following the revelations of the many harms done by former co-founder Kay Le Claire recently,” read part of the post. “Evidence has come to light showing that Kay Le Claire has made false allegations regarding their heritage, art and position in the community.


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