We are deeply concerned about allegations that a community member with whom we have partnered misrepresented their identity and engaged in disingenuous actions. There is a long and painful history of erasure and cultural appropriation in the U.S., which has had an immense impact on the lives of Indigenous people. These latest allegations are a disturbing reminder of how this persists today.
As the Center for Design and Material Culture’s Community Leader in Residence for 2022, Kay LeClaire worked with UW–Madison faculty and students between March 2022 and December 2022 and received stipend payments totaling $4,876.56 in private gift/grant funding. The newly created Community Leader in Residence program invites community practitioners to partner with faculty, staff, and/or students on projects. This limited-time role, filled through an application process, is not identity-based, although individuals from underrepresented or historically marginalized groups are encouraged to apply. LeClaire’s residency was slated to end on December 31, 2022. They voluntarily resigned their position on December 29, 2022. The School of Human Ecology and its Center for Design and Material Culture do not have plans to further collaborate with LeClaire and have not acquired any materials from LeClaire for its Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection.
We greatly value our relationships with Native students, faculty, staff and community members in Wisconsin and across the nation. We strive to uplift others and make sure our school is a place where people of all backgrounds and identities know they belong. We remain steadfast in our commitment to creating educational pathways for Native students, faculty, staff and community members and invite feedback on meaningful ways to continue to support this commitment. As the layers of this situation unfold, we are committed to understanding and learning from it and fostering healing for all involved.
We recognize that these latest allegations of cultural appropriation and erasure may be deeply upsetting particularly to our Indigenous community members. For students seeking support and resources, we encourage you to reach out to University Health Services or the Dean of Students Office. Employees are encouraged to find support and resources through the Employee Assistance Office.