Indianz.Com > News > Self-proclaimed ‘Auntie’ admits being wrong about tribal affiliations
Corinne Perera
A photo of Corinne Perera, then known as Corinne Oestrich, was posted on a personal blog in October 2015. In the post, she identified herself as “multi-racial” and wrote: “It means I am Lakota, Dutch Indonesian, Swiss, and Portuguese.”
Self-proclaimed ‘Auntie’ admits being wrong about tribal affiliations
‘Mohawk’ and ‘Lakota’ no more for social media star
Monday, January 24, 2022

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A social media figure who built a following by creating “Native” content has scrubbed references to her supposed tribal affiliations after admitting she had made a “mistake” in doing so.

Corinne Perera amassed over 100,000 followers on TikTok and more than 40,000 on Instagram with posts connected to her claimed Lakota and Mohawk identities. She purported to educate her audience about issues facing American Indians, often asking for monetary contributions for content about colonization, assimilation and cultural appropriation.

But after Native people asked questions about her background, Perera removed “Lakota” and “Mohawk” from her @misscorinne86 biography on TikTok, which had become her largest platform. She also hid her @misscorinne86 account on Instagram, making it inaccessible to the general public despite having used it in the past to solicit donations and to drum up business for her “Indigenous-owned” consulting firm.

And in a public post on Facebook last week, Perera admitted she was wrong to have claimed affiliations with sovereign tribal nations to which she doesn’t belong. She blamed the “mistake” on missteps her family made while researching the genealogy of “one of my grandfathers.”

“I was young and learning about how to step into indigenous community in the Bay Area and claimed my nations without having enrollment. This was a mistake,” Perera wrote on January 19 from an account where she uses the name Corinne Grey Cloud.

“I should have been more open and honest about not being enrolled and being a descendant,” Perera added.

Corinne Grey Cloud
A social media post from Corinne Grey Cloud on January 19, 2022.

Saying she wasn’t “perfect,” Perera acknowledged placing herself — and others who have supported her — in an awkward position. After tying her career to Native issues and Native life, she said she was going to “step back” from her very public, though largely self-designated “Auntie” persona.

“Being in the work of education and training, it was never my intention to take space from someone in the work who was enrolled, but to use every connection I have to help those around me,” she wrote in the post.

The explanation, however, wasn’t satisfactory for those reading it — in particular, Native women. Many reacted negatively to Perera’s statement, with some noting that her platform’s popularity was tied to her views on sensitive issues, such as the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous people and the losses suffered during the genocidal Indian boarding school era.

“You have an enormous following and a reach many of us do not have, so I appreciate the education and elevation you have created with your online audience,” a woman from the Oglala Sioux Tribe wrote on the public post.

“But it’s hard to not feel like you appropriated from our mothers, grandmother and great grandmothers and that hurts me,” the person said.

“Stop making excuses,” wrote another woman who has founded and led activist groups in Indian Country. “You lied and we don’t need you to talk your way out of it. Just say sorry and walk away from your social media status and profits that were gained through identity theft.”

Native Voice TV: Corinne Oestreich (Oglala/Lakota-Blackfoot)

Perera’s story about her supposed tribal affiliations has shifted over the years, much like the names she has used in public. She currently goes by “Corinne Grey Cloud” — having recently married Greg Grey Cloud, who is a citizen of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe. The couple makes their home on the Rosebud Sioux Reservation in South Dakota.

But for her “Indigenous-owned” business, Perera has used the “Rice” surname, apparently in an attempt to legitimize her tribal claims. One citizen of the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe told Indianz.Com that the name was chosen because of its prominence among Mohawk people in the state of New York and in Canada. A second Mohawk citizen made the same assertion in a social media post that questioned Perera’s tribal affiliation.

Indeed, Perera has long been claiming that her grandfather was Mohawk. She identified herself as “Lakota and Mohawk” in a first-person essay published in The Huffington Post ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday in November 2018.

“My grandfather moved to California from Mohawk territory in the 1950s after he served in Korea, and we have all lived in Sunnyvale ever since,” Perera wrote of the Silicon Valley city known for its high-technology wealth. The piece carried a byline of “Corinne Oestreich” — Oestreich being the surname of her husband at the time.

Corinne Oestrich on Real Talk Podcast: “My grandfather is Lakota and Mohawk and moved from Mohawk territory out to California after the Korean War”

Yet well before the “HuffPost Personal” essay, Perera was making a name for herself among Native people who live in northern California. She appeared on Native Voice TV in July 2017 and was very clear about her background. It was a far cry from the uncertainties she portrayed in her more recent Facebook post about her family’s research journey.

“I am Oglala Lakota and Blackfoot, but I grew up here in the Sunnyvale / Bay Area of California,” she said when asked by the host of Native Voice TV to detail her “tribal affiliation.”

A photo of Perera wearing what was described as a jingle dress is then shown on screen. She said she wore the Native regalia to a “Heritage Day” presentation at a school where she was employed. According to public records, she worked for the Sunnyvale School District at the time.

When asked about the origins of her supposed Lakota family, Perera was just as confident with her answer. “From Pine Ridge,” she quickly replied, referring to the Pine Ridge Reservation, the home of the Oglala Sioux Tribe. She did not elaborate on the “Blackfoot” affiliation she was claiming, nor did the Native Voice TV host inquire.

During the Native Voice TV show, Perera shared her experiences of working for PowWows.Com. She has been writing for the popular website since at least 2014, according to an episode of the Real Talk Podcast that aired in early February 2019.

But in the more recent days since Native people raised questions about Perera, all references to her work on PowWows.Com have been removed. Pages tagged with her various names — “Corinne Rice,” “Corinne Oestrich” and “Corinne Grey Cloud” — are no longer accessible on the site, which is owned and operated by Paul Gowder, a non-Native man who lives in South Carolina.

Still, traces of Perera’s past can be found through cached versions of some pages on PowWows.Com — including a now-deleted post that promoted her 2017 appearance on Native Voice TV. She can be seen with Gowder in an April 2018 social media post from the Gathering of Nations Powwow in Albuquerque, New Mexico,
“ staff at Gathering of Nations”: Corinne Perera, center, is seen with PowWows.Com founder and owner Paul Gowder, right, at the Gathering of Nations in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in a social media post from April 27, 2018.

Corinne Perera was born in California in 1986 to Heidi A. Tubbs and John M. Perera. Tubbs and Perera were married in California a year prior, according to public records. They later divorced.

Perera has identified her paternal grandfather as Aleysworth Dudley Perera. In the Spring 2015 issue of The Indo Project Newsletter, she said her “opa” — a word meaning grandfather in the Indonesian language — was born in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, in 1930.

According to public records, Perera’s maternal grandfather is John P. Tubbs. He was born around 1936 in Pennsylvania and later moved to the Bay Area of California, as stated repeatedly by his granddaughter.

Records from the U.S. Census Bureau and an obituary from a family member who lived to the age of 94 show Tubbs’s mother to be “Beulah Rice Tubbs Miles Reed.” The remembrance offers a glimpse into the origins of the “Rice” name that Perera utilizes in hopes of bringing herself closer to the Mohawk people.

But the timeline of her maternal grandfather’s birth and his upbringing in Erie, Pennsylvania, doesn’t entirely match up with her claims of him serving in the Korean War. He would have only been 17 years old and while he could have enlisted in the U.S. military at the time, available records show him graduating from high school in 1954 — after the conflict had already ended.

Additionally, Beulah Rice identified her family as originating from Ohio, according to records from the U.S. Census Bureau. The geographic locale doesn’t exactly fit with the claims made by Perera and her biological brother, both of whom have said they are “Kahnawake Mohawk” descendants. The Mohawk Council of Kahnawá:ke is a sovereign First Nation located in Quebec, Canada, almost 500 miles from the “Mohawk territory” where their grandfather once lived.

“He is the most Native out of all of us and he doesn’t know anything,” Perera once said of her grandfather in an interview published in April 2020.

“He is fine with not reconnecting with his culture but me and my brother we are not fine without that connection,” she added.

Incidentally, a 2015 story featuring Perera’s younger brother has not been removed from PowWows.Com. But there are indications that modifications were made to the page — the cached version carries one of the “Corinne” bylines while the current version states it was “Posted By PowWow Articles.”

Additionally, the photos at the top and bottom of the page depict a person matching Perera. The sibling relationship is not disclosed in the story, in either the version that was cached or in the one that has been modified.

@star.ishkode #duet with @misscorinne86 #nativetiktok #reztok #rezfamily #fyp ♬ its quite aint no back talk – keileigh hope kiki

@star.ishkode #misscorinne86 #corinnegreycloud #corinnerice #fyp ♬ original sound – Wagąduwa Aktaga

Though Perera has kept the @misscorinne86 visible and active on TikTok, she recently prohibited anyone from commenting on her posts, the first of which dates to late September 2019. The most recent post is from January 4, 2022, though she indicated it was “reuploaded” because an earlier version was “taken down” on the platform. In the clip, a visibly pregnant Perera holds what appears to be a firearm in a scene that supposedly represents the way the “US Gov” has mistreated Native peoples.

Despite shutting down engagement on her TikTok account, Perera has been unable to stop reaction to the controversy surrounding her tribal affiliation claims. Native women have been commenting and sharing their own video responses to her shifting story. In one post that is publicly visible, an Ojibwe woman decried @misscorinne86 for being “paid to speak on our traumas like they were hers.”

“She’s been making money off of pretending to be indigenous!!!” the user @star.ishkode wrote in another post, utilizing the duet feature on TikTok to call attention to the irony of a non-Native person denouncing another non-Native as a “colonizer.”

@vietmni #duet with @misscorinne86 pretendian alert 🚨 im SHOCKED but theres posts on Facebook just look her name up #nativetiktok ♬ Know Yourself – Drake
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