Terry Tafoya uses his Indian blood and Indian mythology as a popular lecturer on mental health issues, and in several appointments at well-known institutions. Unfortunately, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer has found, Tafoya's Indian blood is questionably thin, his academic record elusive and, worse, his qualifications in psychology are troublesome.
The P-I's well-researched front-page piece by Ruth Teichroeb explains how the charismatic Tafoya jets around the U.S. and Canada appearing at up to 100 events a year -- most of them paid at least in part by public dollars. He typically commands fees of up to $3,000 plus expenses ... all based on dubious claims (among others) that he was raised on the Taos Pueblo in New Mexico (he wasn't), has a Ph.D. in psychology (he doesn't) and a life story that bears little resemblance to reality.
If this reminds you of University of Colorado provocateur Ward Churchill, another dubious storyteller, you're not alone. His own lineage has never been fully explained, and his academic record is clearly cockeyed. His qualifications to teach are certainly doubtful.
I'm wondering: What would make a non-Indian want to fib about his Indian-ness? Or is it just a minor lie among many others? Do the rest of us somehow give more weight to the opinions and teachings of Indians just because they claim Native American blood flows in their veins? Are we so shallow?