‘Native American’ novelist praised by GMA, NYT accused of being a ‘Pretendian’
Colorado writer Erika Wurth has earned accolades from the New York Times and Good Morning America for her new novel based totally on her native American heritage — nevertheless it’s a earlier, her detractors say, that she has made up.
Wurth, who teaches ingenious writing at Regis University in Denver, claims Chickasaw, Apache and Cherokee heritage on her mother’s facet. The background informs her latest novel, “White Horse,” which was launched to capitalize on Native American Indian Heritage Month in November 2022.
But based mostly on Native activists and researchers, Wurth, 47, is one in each of dozens of “Pretendians,” and featured on AncestorStealing, a weblog that exposes white people who pose as “fake Indians.”
“Her story is completely unverifiable,” acknowledged Jacqueline Keeler, a Portland, Oregon, journalist who consulted public data going once more larger than 100 years to investigate Wurth’s claims. “Her story just doesn’t add up. She has zero Native ancestry.”
Last yr, Keeler, who’s of Dine/Dakota heritage, made worldwide headlines when she unmasked Sacheen Littlefeather, the Native American activist and actor who famously declined Marlon Brando’s best actor Oscar in 1973 over Hollywood’s portrayal of Native Americans. According to Keeler, Sacheen Littlefeather, who died last yr, was not Native. Keeler’s assertion was backed up by Littlefeather’s family, who has Mexican-American roots.
Keeler, who has been accused of conducting “witch hunts” to indicate fake Native Americans, instructed The Post she met Wurth a couple of years up to now when the novelist publicly accused Native American writer Sherman Alexie of sexually assaulting her when she was a 22-year-old aspiring writer. Alexie vigorously denied the allegations of sexual misconduct leveled in opposition to him by Wurth and two completely different girls.
Keeler acknowledged she began investigating Wurth’s background as a consequence of the novelist’s family story appeared fanciful.
“My grandmother, Margarite Temple, came from a long line of urban Indians (of Apache, Chickasaw, and Cherokee descent) and suffered much,” Wurth wrote in a 2022 essay for CrimeReads.com. “Without the finances to realize her dream of becoming a blues singer in New York, Annie James, the Chickasaw whorehouse owner grandmother who raised her, arranged a marriage with a much older man. Margarite was 14. He beat her, gave her syphilis, walked up the steps of their house drunk, and kicked her while she was pregnant.”
According to Wurth, James exacted revenge by killing her private husband. “She had stripped a bullet, melted it, and poured it into his ear while he was sleeping, which killed him,” Wurth acknowledged in a 2017 weblog submit.
Keeler acknowledged a workers of researchers and Native American geneologists have been unable to substantiate Wurth’s indigenous roots or the story in regards to the murder.
“Erika Wurth and her family are not of Cherokee descent,” based mostly on the AncestorStealing weblog submit. “They were white settlers on stolen Native lands. By the time of the 1900 census, they were back in Kansas, the owners of a farm.”
The comparable census moreover gives clues about Wurth’s good grandmother. “The 1900 census shows [Annie and Albert Coffin] as married and living together in San Antonio, Texas, [and] by the time of the 1910 census, Annie lists herself as a widow,” reads the AncestorStealing submit about Wurth. “Except she isn’t a widow. While Albert Coffin disappeared from the censuses in 1910 and 1920, we know from his gravestone that he was alive until 1925. So the marriage seems to be troubled. But this story of Annie’s ‘much, much older husband’ getting a melted bullet poured into his ear, which she says caused his death, seems to be entirely made up.”
Wurth refused comment Wednesday, nevertheless in a assortment of 2021 tweets she attacked Keeler and her evaluation.
“Somehow, no matter what, no matter if people are dying or being mocked no matter the issue it’s somehow about somebody who isn’t really Indian,” Wurth tweeted. “Because Jackie is THE ONLY INDIAN (Who by some means has by no means produced her tribal ID…).
“Doesn’t matter whether someone’s enrolled, if they’re successful, she & her white Indians bully, calling pretendinan to get attention from white people who find her to be nothing more than a minor annoyance,” Wurth continued.
London-based Chickasaw writer Tony Perry has moreover disputed Wurth’s claims, considerably regarding her Chickasaw roots. The Chickasaw tribe’s lands have been located inside the southeastern US.
“Erika has a PhD to look and examine and analyze her past, but none of that has happened when it comes to her identity,” acknowledged Perry. “It’s one thing to have family lore about what you think happened in the past. It’s quite another when you start to build your career around it.”
Wurth has lectured broadly and has mined Native American traditions and folk tales in her seven books. In “White Horse,” which was a Book of the Month Club resolve in November and featured on a listing of Good Housekeeping’s best books by Native writers, Wurth attracts on the Chickasaw legend of Lofa, a boogeyman. The novel tells the story of Native American Kari James, who “must face her family’s dark past after discovering a bracelet haunted by her mother’s spirit.” The copper bracelet conjures visions of her missing mother along with the Lofa.
“I’m not the only Native person I know with an obsession with horror,” wrote Wurth on CrimeReads. “And no wonder. A legacy of genocide and cultural genocide with day and boarding schools, and the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women issue—and the general PTSD that comes from that, to move back up to the therapeutic aspects of horror.”
Keeler and completely different researchers have reached out to Wurth’s publishers and editors to permit them to search out out about their evaluation into Wurth’s earlier. But up to now they’ve been met with silence, Keeler instructed The Post.
“What gets me is the people who enable this kind of behavior, and say nothing,” acknowledged Keeler. “Look, I’m 1/32 part German but I’m not here speaking for the German people. But whenever there’s money to be gained, there they are.”
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