Distorted Descent

White Claims to Indigenous Identity

Darryl Leroux (Author)


Distorted Descent examines a social phenomenon that has taken off in the twenty-first century: otherwise white, French descendant settlers in Canada shifting into a self-defined “Indigenous” identity. This study is not about individuals who have been dispossessed by colonial policies, or the multi-generational efforts to reconnect that occur in response. Rather, it is about white, French-descendant people discovering an Indigenous ancestor born 300 to 375 years ago through genealogy and using that ancestor as the sole basis for an eventual shift into an “Indigenous” identity today.

After setting out the most common genealogical practices that facilitate race shifting, Leroux examines two of the most prominent self-identified “Indigenous” organizations currently operating in Quebec. Both organizations have their origins in committed opposition to Indigenous land and territorial negotiations, and both encourage the use of suspect genealogical practices. Distorted Descent brings to light to how these claims to an “Indigenous” identity are then used politically to oppose actual, living Indigenous peoples, exposing along the way the shifting politics of whiteness, white settler colonialism, and white supremacy.


"Distorted Descent is a brave, original piece of scholarship, offered in the context of a politically sensitive and socially controversial subject of Indigenous identity. His research exposes the extent to which white settler colonialism undermines Indigenous rights through the theft of Indigenous identity. It's a real wake-up call.”

Pamela Palmater, Chair in Indigenous Governance, Department of Politics and Public Administration, Ryerson University

“This is a timely and important study highlighting Canada’s historical literacy about who Indigenous people really are which, coupled with an exponential growth in interest in genealogical research and DNA tests that trace your ancestry, has supported the claims of white-Canadians to Indigenous ancestry.”

Brenda MacDougall, University of Ottawa

“Leroux’s absolutely needed and timely study unpacks the contemporary practice of white settlers self-Indigenizing while also highlighting how this process actively harms Indigenous peoples and uplifts whiteness.”

Jenny Ferguson, Quill & Quire

“The entire nation must confront these latest efforts to claim ‘Indigenous lands and life.’ Whether allies or accomplices, all Canadians must educate themselves and unlearn the stereotypes that pervade the national consciousness. They must channel their wealth, power, and expertise to support actual Indigenous organizations and communities fighting at the front lines. Most importantly, Canadians must nurture a sense of reciprocity and realize that they have been taking without giving for too long.”

Sasha Chabot-Gaspé, The Literary Review of Canada

"[Distorted Descent] is a deeply necessary book that responds to the challenges of the contemporary moment and charts a path for a more livable future."

Jeff Noh, Event Magazine

"In the present climate of 'fake news' and claims to 'post-truth,' Leroux’s book provides essential data. Any hope for genuine reconciliation requires decolonization and the acknowledgment of the violent history of settler colonialism. Leroux’s contribution is a call to honest engagement."

Dr. Jűrgen Werner Kremer, American Indian Culture and Research Journal

"While claiming an Indigenous identity may seem like a harmless form of cosplay, Leroux illustrates how damaging these practices can be to the self-determination of actual Indigenous peoples. The two case studies show that the main catalyst to claim an Indigenous identity was to derail agreements that were being negotiated with the Innu and Mi’kmaw First Nations. Leroux’s book is itself an illustration of one of the forms that Indigenous allyship can take."

Darren O'Toole, Native American and Indigenous Studies

"Darryl Leroux masterfully gives a full account of the political reasons for this phenomenon [of race-shifting]. Distorted Descent provides both an extremely important argument as well as a prose that draws in the reader."

Joseph R. Wiebe, University of Toronto Quarterly, "Letters in Canada"

About the Author

Darryl Leroux is associate professor in the Department of Social Justice and Community Studies at Saint Mary’s University in Kjipuktuk (Halifax, Nova Scotia). He has been working on the dynamics of racism and colonialism among fellow French descendants for nearly two decades.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Self-Indiginization in the Twenty-First Century
Ch. 1 Lineal Descent in an Age of Reconciliation
Ch. 2 Aspirational Descent: Creating an Indigenous Woman Ancestor
Ch. 3 Lateral Descent: Reconstructing Indigeneity in the Past
Ch. 4 After Powley: Anti-Indigenous Activism and Becoming Métis in Two Regions of Quebec
Ch. 5 The Largest Self-Identified "Métis" Organization in Canada: The Métis Nation of the Rising Sun