Kay LeClaire: Wisconsin 'two-spirit' activist accused of FAKING Native American heritage

Kay LeClaire: Wisconsin 'two-spirit' activist accused of FAKING Native American heritage
The claims have led to Kay LeClaire’s removal from a collective artist group (Provided by Nipinet Landsem /madison365)

MADISON, WISCONSIN: A report claims that the co-owner of a Wisconsin-based collective of queer Indigenous artists is being accused of being white despite claiming to be of Native American ancestry. Kay LeClaire, also known as Nibiiwakamigkwe, describes herself as "two-spirit," a word that many Indigenous people use to refer to non-binary gender identity. 

As reported by Madison365, amateur genealogist AdvancedSmite claims that LeClaire has been making money off of Indigenous peoples' identities. Although she has claimed that she is of Métis, Oneida, Anishinaabe, Haudenosaunee, Cuban, and Jewish ancestry, AdvancedSmite claims to have used web documents and resources to discover LeClaire's genuine ancestry, which is German, Swedish, and French Canadian. 



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LeClaire, an Indigenous arts leader and activist, has reportedly received numerous speaking gigs and awards for her artwork over the past few years. She also received a paid residency at the University of Wisconsin, a position on the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Task Force, and several artists' stipends, reported Daily Mail.

The co-owner provided a statement to Madison365. "I am sorry," they said. "A lot of information has come to my attention since late December. I am still processing it all and do not yet know how to respond adequately. What I can do now is offer change." "Moving forward, my efforts will be towards reducing harm by following the directions provided by Native community members and community-specified proxies," the statement continued. "Currently, this means that I am not using the Ojibwe name given to me and am removing myself from all community spaces, positions, projects, and grants and will not seek new ones." It added, "Any culturally related items I hold are being redistributed back in community, either to the original makers and gift-givers when possible or elsewhere as determined by community members. Thank you."


It was through a Facebook advertisement for an impending discussion on Indigenous feminism that AdvancedSmite, who is also of Indigenous descent, first learned about LeClaire. The name Nibiiwakamigkwe was given to LeClaire in the talk, which AdvancedSmite claimed was unique because the given Ojibwe name is "typically something that would just be used in ceremony or with other people who are Ojibwe or a part of your community." LeClaire's last name is Ojibwe, which is "a common Native American last name," according to research by AdvancedSmite. However, they also saw posts on their social media indicating LeClaire frequently seemed to identify as Anishinaabe. "Our band names are so important, so I tend to be suspicious when someone just says Anishinaabe," AdvancedSmite stated. 

Then, according to Madison365, AdvancedSmite apparently used web data and resources to identify LeClaire's real ancestry as German, Swedish, and French Canadian and posted their results on the New Age Fraud Forum. LeClaire allegedly referred to herself as "a 20-something white woman" on her now-deleted Facebook account, according to research by AdvancedSmite. 


On the site, it was also stated that LeClaire, who went by the name Katie Le Claire, graduated from Hamilton High School in Sussex, Wisconsin, in 2012. According to reports, they attended the University of Wisconsin and got married to fellow Hamilton alum Adam Pagenkopf, a research expert, in the summer of 2018. 



LeClaire and the collective have parted ways as of December 31, 2022, according to a collective Instagram post. "The collective at giige would like to extend our gratitude and utmost sympathy to the Indigenous community within and surrounding Teejop in the wake of the recent revelation of the many harms committed by former co-founder Kay Le Claire," the post said. "Evidence has come to light indicating that Kay Le Claire has made false claims regarding their heritage, their art, and their position in the community."

The New Age Fraud Forum post took about a month to reach the Madison community when clients began emailing the link to giige members. "I was so relieved that someone else had called it out and I didn’t have to. I've had my suspicions, but I didn’t have anything confirmed," stated tattoo artist Nipinet Landsem, as reported by Madison 365. "At first, I was relieved. And then I moved into every human emotion known to man. I am horrified, I'm upset. We’ve already had so much taken away from us. American society is built off of things that have been stolen from Native and Black people. Stolen land, stolen resources, stolen labor, and white people think it’s okay to just continue stealing from us."

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