APTN National News
Embattled author Joseph Boyden broke a nearly three week-long silence by launching a two-pronged public relations campaign Wednesday to counter questions about his shape-shifting claims of Indigenous ancestry.
Boyden, an acclaimed fiction author, recorded an interview Wednesday for CBC’s entertainment program Radio q with Mi’kmaq host Candy Palmater and then released a statement shortly after the full interview was posted online by CBC.
The Three Day Road author has variously claimed Metis, Mi’kmaq, Ojibway, Wendat and Nipmuc ancestry over the years.
An APTN National News story that examined his shifting claims published on Dec. 23, sparked a wide-spread debate over identity, kinship, community and belonging in Indigenous nations.
In his statement, Boyden essentially admits he does not have the documentation to prove his claimed links to Indigenous ancestry.
“My family’s heritage is rooted in our stories. I’ve listen to them, both the European and the Indigenous ones, all my life,” said Boyden, in the statement. “My older sisters told me since childhood about my white-looking father helping his Indian-looking brother hide their blood in order to survive in the early 1900s. My mother’s family history is certainly not laid out neatly in the official records, or on ancestry.ca either. From the age of nine or 10, the woman I knew as my grandmother told me stories about my mother that, until recently, my mother preferred not to share with anyone. The details are private and painful, yet my mother has been forced to revisit aspects of her past she believed were closed away forever….If it is about blood quantum, then I fear I will never be good enough.”
Boyden’s uncle, Earl Boyden, went by the nickname Injun Joe, wore a headdress and sold “Indian” items to tourists from a shop near Algonquin Park.
Joseph Boyden currently claims his father’s family is linked to the Native American Nipmuc Nation in the Dartmouth area of Massachusetts.
On his mother’s side, Boyden claims links to the Ojibway around Georgian Bay.
Nipmuc Nation Chief Cheryll Toney Holley, who is also a genealogist, released a blog post on Wednesday casting doubt on Boyden’s Nipmuc link. Holley said the Nipmuc are not from the Dartmouth area of Massachusetts. Holley, using maps and historical documents, said the people of the Dartmouth area are a different nation, the Wampanoag.
“Whether the author is Nipmuc or not, I cannot really say since I only casually glanced at his genealogy,” said Holley, in the blog post. “He has not to my knowledge made any attempt to engage my people. However, I hope this article has demonstrated that Dartmouth Indians are not the same people as Nipmuc, so there is some confusion in (Boyden’s) claim to be Nipmuc from Dartmouth, Ma.”
Boyden said his real mistake was letting his good intentions get the best of him.
“I recognize that I’ve been too vocal on many Indigenous issues in this country,” said Boyden, in the statement. “I let myself become a go-to person in the media when issues arose. I was wrong to do that and will never again provide anything but my piece. That role should go to those with deeper roots in their communities—wiser and more experienced spokespeople and Elders—who have that right and responsibility and who can better represent their community’s perspective.”
Boyden said his silence on the controversy around his claimed heritage—which lasted from Dec. 24 until Wednesday—was not due to “shame,” but rather because he was spending time with his family.
“Please know that I didn’t go silent out of a sense of shame, but out of the desperate need to listen,” said Boyden, in the statement. “My family and others in these last weeks told me this: I can try and talk and defend and explain all I want, but perhaps, it’s time to close my mouth and ask for guidance and truly listen.”
Boyden said he’s really never claimed to be anything more than what he’s always claimed: “A white kid from Willowdale with Native roots.”
Boyden has ignored repeated on camera interview requests from APTN.