Numerous Native American accounts were deemed “invalid” because it was believed that the Natives were using fake last names. Dana Lone Hill, for example, had her Facebook account suspended and received this message:
“[I]t looks like the name on your Facebook account may not be your authentic name.”
Lone Hill had to send in her photo ID, her library card, and a piece of mail in order to prove that Lone Hill was her real last name. A week later, her account was finally reactivated.
Many feel that Facebook should not have the power to deem what is an authentic-sounding last name. “Just seeing that over and over again: Your name wasn’t approved, your name wasn’t approved. … It just reflects on a white supremacist society,” says Shane Creepingbear, whose account was reported twice as being fake. After receiving these reports, Facebook sent Creepingbear a message stating that his last name “violates our name standards.”
Over 10,000 Native Americans signed a petition against Facebook asking them to allow Natives to use their real names. Lone Hill also wrote an article for Last Real Indians on how both she and her friend Lance Brown Eyes struggled to prove their identity to Facebook.
“There’s been a long history of Native erasure,” Creepingbear stated, “and while Facebook might not be enacting it with that intention, it’s still a part of that long history of people erasing native names. It’s part of the violence against native people in general.”
Facebook has stated that it plans to improve its name verification policy.
The Lakota People’s Law Project certainly hopes that Facebook changes its policy. The last names of Native Americans are a part of their culture, heritage, and identity, and these names should not be treated as “invalid.”