A racial grievance monger who’s for years claimed to be a “two-spirit” Native American has reportedly recently been exposed as a white woman with a history of exploiting and profiting off of indigenous culture.
Kay LeClaire, who goes by the Ojibwe nickname Nibiiwakamigkwe, is a co-founder of a queer indigenous artists’ collective tattoo parlor known as “giige.” She’s also a liar.
According to Tone Madison, an independent publication that covers news out of Madison, Wisconsin, LeClaire was exposed in November.
“Evidence posted in an online forum in November accused Kay LeClaire … of having entirely white ancestry and lying about [her] heritage,” the outlet notes.
The cornucopia of evidence in the forum post included contradicting quotes in which LeClaire claimed to be different things.
“Since at least 2017, Kay LeClaire has claimed Métis, Oneida, Anishinaabe, Haudenosaunee, Cuban and Jewish heritage,” according to Madison365, a non-profit news outlet also based out of Madison, Wisconsin.
Kay LeClaire went by an Ojibwe spirit name, spoke and performed at Native American events, led the local Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women movement, got grants & fellowships, sold leather bags and birch baskets. Turns out, it was all based on lies. https://t.co/jjdR0gYEod
— Madison365 (@madison_365) January 3, 2023
The evidence also included a tracing of her heritage.
“In my opinion, based on publicly available information: Kathryn Elizabeth Le Claire was born and raised in southern Wisconsin by [her] parents, Brian and Carol (Johnson) Le Claire. [She] graduated from Hamilton High School in Sussex, Wisconsin,” the related forum post reads.
It further notes that her ancestry appears to be German, Swedish, and French Canadian, not indigenous, and that her hair, eyebrows, and skin tone have all darkened (presumably through cosmetics) between 2012 to 2022.
She’s basically a white woman — one who’s profited mightily from claiming to be a Native American.
“LeClaire is … accused of buying art from Etsy merchants and passing it off as [her] own, authentically Native, work,” according to Tone Madison.
“In addition to becoming a member and co-owner of giige, LeClaire earned several artists’ stipends, a paid residency at the University of Wisconsin, a place on the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Task Force and many speaking gigs and art exhibitions, not to mention a platform and trust of a community – all based on an ethnic identity that appears to have been fully fabricated,” Madison365 notes.
She’s not the first white woman to be accused of pretending to be something she’s not for profit.
— KERRY KELLY (@kerrykelly514) September 29, 2022
LeClaire has, for her part, essentially admitted to having lied by issuing an apology to Madison365.
“I am sorry. 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,” she said.
“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. 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,” she added.
The tattoo parlor giige has meanwhile cut its ties with her.
“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. It is with great relief and a legal feat behind the scenes that the team at giige announce our separation from co-founder Kay Le Claire, effective 12/31/2022,” the parlor wrote in a statement shared to Instagram on Monday.
“The foundation of our collective encompasses gender and trauma-informed care within an Indigenous tattooing space, bringing healing through ink back to Indigenous and queer bodies. This person has both gone against our inherent values and perpetuated harm within the Teejop community and beyond,” the parlor added.
View this post on Instagram
Members of the giige are themselves relieved, as some of them had always had suspicions, but were also horrified.
“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,” tattoo artist Nipinet Landsem told Madison365.
“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,” she added.
As noted earlier, LeClaire is a racial grievance monger.
Madison365 explains that in 2020, she went viral when purporting to be an indigenous woman, she demanded the owners of a new music venue change its name from The Winnebago because the name was offensive to her ostensible people.
Her activism worked.
“I’m glad the owners have decided to no longer profit from the identities of Indigenous peoples. I’m glad the name is going, but I’m not happy the institutions that allowed it to be stolen in the first place remain. For over 500 years, Indigenous Peoples have not controlled our narratives and representations. Our exclusion has been built into inclusion for others,” she reportedly subsequently wrote in an editorial.
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