Last Updated on March 27, 2023
One of Hollywood’s top “Native American” producers has been accused of faking her heritage, according to a report from the New York Post.
Heather Rae, 56, serves on the Academy of Motion Pictures’ Indigenous Alliance, previously headed up the Sundance Institute’s Native American program. She also worked as “narrative change strategist” for the “unapologetically ambitious and innovative Native women-led” organization IllumiNative which sought to amplify “contemporary Native voices.”
The award-winning producer has long claimed that her mother is part Cherokee, with Rae previously having said “my mother was Indian and my father was a cowboy,” The Post reported.
Her most recent film “Fancy Dance” was partly funded by the Cherokee Nation and premiered at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year.
Now, an activist group called the Tribal Alliance Against Frauds (TAAF) is now demanding Rae drop her “false claims,” while referring to the producer as a “Pretendian”
According to research conducted by TAAF, Rae has no ancestors recognized by the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, the Eastern Band of Cherokee and the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians. In addition, a 1969 birth certificate listed both of her parents as White.
“Being an American Indian person is not just about who you claim to be, it is about who claims you,” Tribal Alliance Against Frauds director Lianna Costantino told the New York Post. “And it’s much more than just race. We are citizens of sovereign nations. Being an Indian is a legal, political distinction.”
The closest relation TAAF could identify as a possible Cherokee connection was Rae’s fourth great-grandparent, which would make her 1/2048th Cherokee.
Prior to the accusation, the film industry was rocked by another Native American heritage scandal late last year. Activist Sacheen Littlefeather, widely known for rejecting Marlon Brando’s Academy Award for “The Godfather” in his stead, was revealed to have no Native American heritage.
There was controversy too when MARLON BRANDO won Best Actor but refused it in objection to the depiction of American Indians by Hollywood and television. He sent activist Sacheen Littlefeather in his place.
— All The Right Movies (@ATRightMovies) March 24, 2023
The shocking revelation came shortly after her death, when her sisters, Trudy Orlandi and Rosalind Cruz revealed that the activist, born Marie Louise Cruz, had faked her heritage. “It’s a lie. … My father was who he was. His family came from Mexico, and my dad was born in Oxnard,” Orlandi said.
Ironically, Heather Rae helped Academy members to construct an apology to the activist for “blacklisting” her after her demonstration at the awards ceremony prior to her death and the subsequent revelation.
“Our support, celebration and recognition of Native American and Indigenous communities and storytellers do not end today. … We are building a future of film that is collaborative, conversational and solutions-oriented. Representation without inclusion or access is not enough. I am so honored to be here with you today and look forward to our future, one which you have greatly inspired. I would like to also reiterate our apology and our gratitude toward you,” the letter read.