Author Joseph Boyden launches PR push to counter controversy

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 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 Holley, using maps and historical documents, said the people of the Dartmouth area are a different nation, the Wampanoag.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.

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10 thoughts on “Author Joseph Boyden launches PR push to counter controversy

    1. Why should Boyden get a pass if he’s lying about his ancestry in order to further his career? Based on his words and actions it’s obvious to anyone paying attention that he has lied many times to many people about his origins. And he’s still trying to get away with it.
      How many FN children looked up to this fraud and now have to deal with the fact they idolized a con artist who won’t even talk to APTN in order to “set the record straight”? You’ve already gone on record, Ernie, with your fears of living in a world where everybody needs to prove their ancestry with a blood test. That’s a reasonable concern but this is about something else. This is about outright fraud and disrespect. Boyden needs to be punished and made an example of. His publishers and the white media establishment are clearly willing to give him a pass and let him try to carry on as if he hadn’t made a mockery of the world of indigenous literature. It’s up to those who aren’t beholden to powerful interests to make sure Boyden doesn’t get away with this bs.

  1. Unfortunately for Boyden, now that the issue of his claimed heritage is in the spotlight, he is behaving like a person with something to hide. Refusing to be interviewed by APTN is a rather large clue that he is still trying to live a lie and salvage his career at the same time.
    I believe that he and his immediate family have a hidden agenda. I believe the focus should now be on his sister Mary Boyden who is the “Indigenous Community Relations Manager” at the Porcupine Gold Mine, owned by mining giant Goldcorp. This is a direct quote from the Goldcorp website:
    “Mary Boyden blazes trails. Aboriginal by birth, she grew up in Toronto…”
    Goldcorp has a history of horrific environmental degradation. Just google “Goldcorp pollution” to discover their crimes.
    I’m not comfortable with a writer like Joseph Boyden pretending to be aboriginal and writing a book like The Orenda, which plays into stereotypes of “savage Indians”, when we are on the brink of environmental disaster and when our government is still colluding with resource extractors to continue the onslaught on our air, water and land. First Nations communities are under substantial pressures to allow resource extraction and/or transport toxic substances on the their territory so I don’t think it’s a stretch to consider that Joseph and Mary Boyden have a hidden agenda. Don’t forget that Joseph Boyden was one of those who would not criticize the failure of the Canadian Human Rights Museum to acknowledge the genocides committed against First Nations people.
    I think the Boydens have been championed by the Canadian Establishment in order to sway public opinion and influence First Nations leaders to allow the continued destruction of the environment.

  2. straight talk
    Can u see all the people that will have to say they are sorry for accusing this man of being a liar ? No one said too much about Grey Owl from Waskasiu when he took on the life of an INDIAN eh.

  3. The Boyden story is not just about blood quantum or a official status card it’s about too many non-native people claiming First nations status without ever stepping foot on a reservation and speaking for us without living our horrific past. It’s about using and abusing our culture and heritage for their own greed and gains under the guise of self-identification. It’s about taking jobs specifically meant for First nations people and claiming awards or credits where none is due because your clearly not First nations.

    1. It’s also about seeking the advice from well-known Indigenous advocates, claiming it as his own, and then using it to be the ‘expert’ on the expert panels of Indigenous issues, and when he wasn’t doing that, he was giving misinformation and confirming stereotypes for his extensive non-Indigenous audience.

  4. This isn’t about shaming, it’s about calling out a liar. NO tribe that he’s ever claimed has records of Boyden or his ancestors. He’s taken up valuable space, received valuable social, monetary and professional benefits that could have gone to an actual Indigenous Canadian. He achieved prominence by appropriating others’ stories.

    Since he’s still insisting on having Native blood, then he should submit to DNA testing. Since he claims close relations including his parents are Native, it should show up easily in his results. Unless of course, he’s lying.

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