SOU Native American Studies professor accused of ethnic fraud

ASHLAND, Ore. – An SOU Native American Studies professor is being accused of ethnic fraud by the Tribal Alliance Against Frauds.

Professor Michele Pavilionis is a member of the Lenape Tribe according to an article on SOU’s website.

But the Tribal Alliance Against Frauds believes Pavilionis has no Native American heritage in her family.

TAAF’s director said they are an independent agency comprised of Native Americans from federally recognized tribes, many of which come from law enforcement backgrounds.

According to a document on the TAAF website, they traced Pavilionis’ family tree back five generations and were not able to find any direct Native American relatives.

TAAF Director Lianna Costantino said, “she won’t talk to us, and that happens a lot. So we did her genealogy and she doesn’t have any ancestry to any tribe we can find. When someone makes a claim to be Indian, it’s up to them to show that they’re actually Indian and back up that claim.”

NBC5 reached out to Pavilionis about the investigation, she responded saying she does not want to comment.

A spokesperson from SOU said the university is aware that TAAF is investigating Pavilionis’ claims of indigenous heritage.

“Federal and state employment laws generally prevent employers from making employment decisions based on an employee’s ethnicity or national origin,” the spokesperson told NBC5. “SOU abides by those legal requirements in this and all cases. Therefore, the university will not address any allegation regarding Pavilionis’ heritage.”

Costantino said they will be releasing more information on their investigation into Pavilionis soon.

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Former NBC5 News reporter Derek Strom is from Renton, Washington. He recently graduated from the Edward R. Murrow College of Communications at Washington State University with a degree in Broadcast News and a minor in Sports Management. He played in the drumline with the WSU marching band. These days, he plays the guitar and piano. Derek is a devoted fan of the Mariners, Seahawks, and Kraken.
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