Wisconsin artist Kay LeClaire accused of faking Native American heritage

The co-owner of a queer Native artist collective in Wisconsin is facing white charges after claiming Native American heritage, according to a report.

Kay LeClaire, who claims to be non-binary, is suspected of falsifying their Aboriginal heritage and cashing in on the pretense, according to a local media report.

Madison 365 reported on Tuesday that Leclerc was accused in an online forum of being actually white because, since 2017, they claimed to be Metis, Oneida, Anishnabe, Howde Descendants of Sonis, Cubans and Jews.

LeClaire was also a founding member of Madison’s Native Art Community Collective and Emerging Leaders, assisted by their Native American advocacy, receiving artist stipends, paid residency at UW, lectures, and art exhibitions.

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But Leclerc, whose name was Native American nibiiwakamigkwe, allegedly came to light after a genealogy enthusiast posted evidence of Leclerc’s real family tree on an online forum, Madison 365 reported. Questions about Leclerc’s claims prompted some digging, online forum user AdvancedSmite told Madison 365.

Kay Leclerc in 2012
Kay LeClaire received an artist stipend and a paid residency at UW on her Native American advocacy.
via Madison 365

The user, who did not want to reveal their true identities to the media, used online records and resources to link Leclerc’s ancestry to German, Swedish and French Canadians, and posted the findings on the forum.

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When contacted by Madison365, Leclerc did not answer questions, but instead sent a lengthy statement. Leclerc reportedly said that any culturally related items they had would be given back to the community and vowed not to seek new funding while stopping existing funding.

“I’m sorry,” they reportedly wrote. “A lot of messages have come to my attention since late December. I’m still processing it all and don’t know how to respond adequately yet. What I can do now Just provide change.

Kay LeClaire in traditional clothing
The allegations led to Leclerc’s expulsion from the collective artist group.
via Madison 365

“Going forward, my efforts will be to reduce harm by following the directions provided by Aboriginal community members and community appointed representatives. , projects and grants, and will not seek new ones.”

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It’s unclear what the December message will be.

The group said in an Instagram post that the group and Leclerc would part ways on December 31, 2022.

“After former co-founder Kay Le Claire’s recent revelations of much harm, the giige collective would like to express our gratitude and our utmost sympathy to the Indigenous community in and around Teejop,” read part of the post. “The evidence shows that Kay Le Claire made false claims about their heritage, their art and their place in the community.”


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