The author of the book Trickster, which was later turned into a television series on CBC, says she feels like a dupe after hearing about Michelle Latimer and the questions around her heritage.
“I feel like such a dupe,” said Eden Robinson on Facebook. “I don’t know how to deal with the anger, disappointment and stress.”
Latimer, who directed Season 2 of Trickster and also Thomas King’s documentary Inconvenient Indian, had been adding details to her Indigenous heritage over the years, but questions started being raised when she said her lineage has ties to Kitigan Zibi, an Algonquin community north of Ottawa.
That’s where an Elder started asking questions CBC reported.
Following the story, Latimer apologized.
“I made a mistake in naming Kitigan Zibi as my family’s community before doing the work to formally verify,” she wrote.
Since then, people in Indigenous media and entertainment circles have been speaking up in opinion columns and on social media.
Actor Gitz Derange was a host for the series Rise and worked closely with Latimer.
“For us that have been duped, for us that have bought into that false image that she was portraying, I feel so used,” said Gitz. “I feel like my skin colour and my ancestral lines were used to further her career.”
Latimer has since resigned from the show Trickster.
Inuk filmmaker Alethea Arnaquq-Barel wrote on social media, “Michelle, I call on you to return your Doc Vanguard award.”
According to the Documentary Organization of Canada, Latimer has agreed to return an award that was presented to her in early December.
Derange said Latimer has robbed other Indigenous talent of opportunities.
“We want to see ourselves succeed. When this happens it robs us of that. They just take our stories and they’ve always done that. They rob us of these moments. I don’t know if it’s more sad or pathetic.
“I just wish that she would do the right thing. I wish that she would own up to all of this rather than trying to keep this lie going. It’s about giving awards back, it’s about giving back the grant money; it’s giving back all of the opportunities she stole from us.”
APTN News reached out to Latimer to comment but did not hear back.
One media outlet is reporting that she has retained legal counsel.
The National Film Board (NFB) announced it’s pulling Latimer’s documentary Inconvenient Indian from distribution and an upcoming screening at the Sundance Film Festival.
The NFB says it consulted with Indigenous participants who appeared in the documentary, and others, including producer Jesse Wente.
The organization says it will continue a dialogue over the coming weeks and months with Indigenous communities to “explore an accountable path forward for the film.”
“Inconvenient Indian” was a breakout success at the Toronto International Film Festival in September where it won some top prizes.
The film was set for Canadian distribution in 2021 and was scheduled to screen at Sundance in January.
Latimer, a Thunder Bay, Ont.-raised filmmaker, says it’s “with a heavy heart” she is leaving the production after seeking advice over concerns raised about the accuracy of her claimed Indigenous ancestry.
Latimer posted a Facebook message on Monday saying, “I have listened to my community and feel that stepping away from the production is the appropriate course of action.”
The decision comes near the end of a whirlwind year that saw her star rise in the context of being a voice for Indigenous creators.
She scored praise for “Trickster,” which was pitched as a Canadian series made by an Indigenous cast and crew, while her documentary “Inconvenient Indian” won two awards at the Toronto International Film Festival in September.