SPOKANE, Wash., June 12 (UPI) -- A prominent Washington civil-rights activist and a professor of African Studies who once claimed she lived in a teepee and used a bow and arrow to hunt for dinner, is under investigation after she allegedly lied about her race.
Rachel Dolezal, 37, who heads the NAACP chapter in Spokane, Wash. and teaches at Eastern Washington University, has come under fire after her parents produced a birth certificate indicating she is white. Dolezal has served in many capacities representing the black community, including as chairwoman of the city's Office of Police Ombudsman Commission and the education director of the Human Rights Education Institute in Idaho.
On Friday, the NAACP said they support Dolezal while she is "enduring a legal issue with her family" and that they "respect her privacy in this matter."
"One's racial identity is not a qualifying criteria or disqualifying standard for NAACP leadership," the NAACP said in a statement. "The NAACP Alaska-Oregon-Washington State Conference stands behind Ms. Dolezal's advocacy record."
Dolezal's mother, Ruthanne, said the family's ancestry is Czech, Swedish and German with some "faint traces" of Native American heritage. Spokane City Hall opened an investigation after Rachel Dolezal identified herself as white, black and Native American on a volunteer application to the commission.
"We are gathering facts to determine if any city policies related to volunteer boards and commissions have been violated," Mayor David Condon and Council President Ben Stuckart said in a joint statement. "That information will be reviewed by the City Council, which has oversight of city boards and commissions."
Questions about Dolezal's racial identity came to light days ago when her parents revealed her birth certificate. They said Dolezal does not have biracial parents, was not born in a teepee in Montana, did not use a bow and arrow to hunt for food and never lived in South Africa -- all claims she has made. Earlier this year, Dolezal stood alongside Baltimore City State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby, who filed charges against several police offices in the death of Freddie Gray.
"It is very disturbing that she has become so dishonest," said Ruthanne Dolezal. "Rachel is very good at using her artistic skills to transform herself."
Dolezal has also filed multiple police reports regarding alleged racist threats against her, including one found near her home, but police have not been able to substantiate them.
In January, Dolezal was featured on the Spokane NAACP's Facebook page, standing next to a man with the caption "President Dolezal's father announced today that he will be coming to town for the January 19th ribbon-cutting ceremony for the NAACP office (25 W Main, Ste 239) and is expected to speak at the 7pm MLK tribute membership meeting (35 W Main, lobby)."
When asked by a KXLY reporter if she is African American, she responded, "I don't understand the question of -- I did tell you that, yes, that's my dad. And he was unable to come in January."
Dolezal said the claims about her falsifying her race are untrue and attributed her parent's comments to a longstanding family estrangement.