There’s something weirdly familiar about this story.

Scott Jaschik reports at Inside Higher Ed.

Indian Enough for Dartmouth?

Dartmouth College this month appointed Susan Taffe Reed as director of its Native American Program. In a news release, the college noted Taffe Reed’s academic background (a Cornell University Ph.D. and postdocs at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Bowdoin College), her research interest (ethnomusicology) and something else: Taffe Reed, Dartmouth noted, is president of Eastern Delaware Nations.

If Dartmouth expected applause for hiring someone with a strong academic background and a personal background that would appeal to its Native American students, whom the program serves, it was mistaken.

Not all Native Americans recognize Eastern Delaware Nations as an Indian tribe. Nor do federal or state governments. So leading the group wasn’t seen as a plus, but as a minus. And then a blog ran a detailed genealogical post about Taffe Reed’s grandparents (from whom she draws a Native American connection) alleging, with legal documents, that they are white European immigrants and their descendants. Dartmouth and Taffe Reed dispute the blog post, but did not issue a detailed rebuttal.

From there it went to social media, with people writing on the Facebook page of Dartmouth’s Native American Alumni Association that the college was insulting Native Americans, not supporting them. One post said: “Congratulations Dartmouth on hiring your very own Rachel Dolezal as the director of the Native American Program. Susan Taffe Reed is not a member of a federally recognized tribe nor does she have legitimate Native American ancestry.”

The reference to Rachel Dolezal — who was head of the Spokane, Wash., NAACP and an adjunct instructor of Africana studies at Eastern Washington University when it was revealed over the summer that she is white, despite her claims to the contrary — is significant, even if Taffe Reed and Dartmouth officials say that she hasn’t distorted her background and that the comparison is unfair.