Newly-elected Winnipeg city councillor Sherri Rollins faced questions Friday about her Indigenous identity after first claiming she was Metis, then a member of the Huron-Wendat community, and finally Miami.
Rollins was elected last month as councillor for the Fort Rouge- East Fort Garry ward in a city that has Canada’s largest Indigenous population.
Part of her campaign during the election was that she is “a proud Huron-Wendat woman.”
Rollins also identified as Huron-Wendat when she worked with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
It’s the first thing mentioned on her Twitter account.
When asked about her roots, Rollins said in an email to APTN “I was born and raised in Ottawa.” She couldn’t provide a community connection, only that her family is from the Windsor-Detroit corridor 300 years ago.
In a later email, Rollins said her great, great, great grandmother wasn’t Huron-Wendat, but rather Miami.
“I grew thinking I was Huron-Wendat,” she said in the email.
Huron-Wendat Nation said with no bloodline connection, she can’t claim to be Huron-Wendat and their legal office is looking into the matter.
The Wyandot of Anderdon Nation in Michigan, in the Windsor-Detroit corridor also doesn’t claim her or her family.
When told that, Rollins said her identity “is layered.”
“Like many Canadians, it’s multifaceted,” Rollins told reporters at Winnipeg city hall Friday, adding she identifies “as an Indigenous woman of Huron-Wendat, Miami descent, and First Nations and French and as a Jew.”
In an undated article in The Jewish Post she also identified as Metis, saying “Wendat and Métis are my French Canadian, Catholic culture,” she’s quoted.
She denied claiming that Friday.
“No, I get called Metis a lot but I said I identify as a Jew, I identify as French, I identify if I eat Yorkshire pudding sometimes you know, I feel really British,” she told reporters.
She insists she hasn’t used an Indigenous identity as a means to getting any job, including her council seat or her job with the TRC or the national MMIWG inquiry.
“That’s supposing that I didn’t run on community safety, that I didn’t run on economic development and social development. That I didn’t run on social inclusion,” she said.
St. Mary’s University Professor Darryl Leroux has researched a growing trend in Eastern Canada of French Canadians claiming they’re indigenous today, based on an ancestor from several hundred years ago.
“Research in historical demography, which essentially studies the overall genealogical profile of the population, estimates that 75 per cent of French-Canadians have Indigenous ancestry,” Leroux said. “The average amount is in the range of less than one per cent.”
He said if all French-Canadians with this small amount of Indigenous ancestry claim today to be indigenous, there would be approximately nine million new Indigenous people in Canada immediately.