After her video about treaties between U.S. settlers and Native tribes was reposted by TikTok celebrity Modern Warrior, the Navajo creator known as Witchy Twitchy said she woke up to an inbox flooded with “really weird” comments.
“You need to get tested for STDs.”
“You’re getting groomed by this man.”
“Your life’s about to get real dramatic.”
Though she has no direct affiliation with him, she found herself dragged into a conflict between Modern Warrior, whose real name is Lance Tsosie, and creator Chelsea Hart.
Hart, who uses they/them pronouns, said they believed they were in a monogamous relationship with Tsosie, and when they discovered that Tsosie allegedly had other partners, Hart brought the disagreement to TikTok.
Hart’s fans harassed Witchy — who asked to only be referred to by her username out of concern for her safety — and other Indigenous creators, who say they were targeted just for being part of Native TikTok.
The space is usually occupied by Indigenous creators making content about their culture and often-overlooked tribal history. Tags like #NativeTikTok and #NativeTok have 5.3 billion and 93.9 million views, respectively. The tags are filled with educational posts and jokes about Indigenous culture, but now the online community is riddled with debates about Hart and Tsosie.
The feud has overshadowed the issues that are actually relevant to Native TikTok, Witchy said — including one young Indigenous artist’s attempt to come forward with allegations of sexual assault against a prominent Indigenous model.
“I was so worried that this would open the door for all the white supremacists and racists that have been hating Modern Warrior,” Witchy, 28, said. “Like scalping threats and racist slurs and all kinds of horrible stuff. I’m worried that this is going to open the door for racists to target a Native man just for being Native and to target the Native community. Look who was right.”
A personal conflict becomes a public feud
Tsosie built a TikTok following of 3 million by calling out racism using the catchphrase “Hey Colonizer.” He has faced harassment from other TikTok users, particularly from conservative figures, and before deleting his account, he said he received threats.
In now-deleted videos, Hart, who is white, said Tsosie was not upfront about dating multiple people when Hart had unprotected sex with him. Hart said they wouldn’t have consented to it if Tsosie wasn’t monogamous. The two were acquainted through TikTok and met in person once after what Hart described as a six-month online relationship.
The same day Hart posted their videos, another white creator shared similar allegations. Amanda Marie, known on TikTok as bananaamarie, alleged that Tsosie “denied” her “informed consent” when they had unprotected sex by not being honest about having other partners.
Within hours of Hart’s and Amanda Marie’s posts, TikTok users flooded Tsosie’s comments with criticism. As more users responded to the videos, the actual allegations were muddied by unfounded rumors and racist stereotypes.
Tsosie said he was “advised not to discuss the topic” and declined further comment to NBC News. On Monday, he posted a TikTok video saying he is deleting his account.
Amanda Marie deleted her video and did not respond to NBC News’ request for comment.
Hart said they were hospitalized and in inpatient mental health treatment for 10 days because of the stress of the backlash against them.
“I wish [I] could’ve known how much it would explode. So many Indigenous women were thrown into some vile stuff they didn’t deserve,” Hart said. “And I think it was a sign of privilege that I didn’t take into account that it would’ve been the case. ... I wish I’d just taken a few moments longer to absorb the healthiest steps.”
Native TikTok was ‘collateral damage’
The conflict between the three creators has dominated TikTok for two weeks. Some TikTok creators chastised Tsosie for allegedly misleading Hart and Amanda Marie. Many were simply racist.
Dachuneeh Martin, a Navajo singer, said TikTok users saw the chance to criticize Tsosie as an excuse to make derogatory comments about Native communities.
“I saw a lot of comments saying that because my tribe’s Navajo, that we just breed like rabbits,” Martin, 18, said. “And it was very, very hurtful that just because of what one man did, our whole tribe was generalized.”
In the weeks after Hart’s first videos, the tide turned. Popular Black and Indigenous creators described Hart’s reaction to Tsosie’s alleged dishonesty as “white women tears,” noting the dangers of a white person improperly accusing a person of color of hurting them. Some creators said the backlash was amplified by racism. Others questioned whether Hart’s claims were accurate.
I saw a lot of comments saying that because my tribe’s Navajo, that we just breed like rabbits. And it was very, very hurtful that just because of what one man did, our whole tribe was generalized.
Dachuneeh Martin, a Navajo singer
“Everybody wants to pretend that this is all happening in a vacuum, in a bubble where racism doesn’t exist,” Witchy said. “And everybody wants to throw intersectionality out the window.”
Hart’s videos became viral trends. A quote from one of their TikToks, in which they said “an ache in my womb, Lance,” was widely misheard as “an ache in my womblands.” The tag #womblands has accrued 85 million views on TikTok, and videos remixing their quote into dance tracks went viral. Another sound clip from their videos, in which they yelled, “You [expletive] knew,” has been used in thousands of TikToks.
Tsosie remained silent for about two weeks after the initial backlash from Hart’s videos. As attitudes on TikTok shifted, he posted an Instagram story captioned, “White women tears are a tool of white supremacy.” In response, Amanda Marie posted — and quickly deleted — a series of videos accusing both him and Hart of manipulating her and claimed that Tsosie had threatened her “into silence." Other creators jokingly described the developments as “womblands season five.”
The broader TikTok community may have dismissed the conflict with jokes, but Native TikTok is still dealing with the initial backlash.
Witchy said the dispute between Hart and Tsosie fractured Native TikTok. The “added stress” of the conflict, as well as the “onslaught of racism” many Indigenous creators experienced, has weakened it as a community, she said.
Little Snow Bird, a Yurok creator who said Tsosie shirked his responsibility to the Native community by failing to defend the women who weren’t involved, described the harassment as “collateral damage.”
“The collateral damage is far and wide. And I think that Lance needs to understand the collateral damage that was left by his discrepancies,” Little Snow Bird, 40, continued. “And Chelsea, too. She went off to sleep with a man she barely knew. Their whole thing caused so much collateral damage to the Indigenous communities.”
Creators say the dispute has overshadowed the actual issues affecting Native TikTok
Days before Hart made the videos about Tsosie, Sienna Guerrero, an Indigenous Mexican makeup artist, accused the popular model Haatepah of sexually assaulting her when she was a minor after commissioning her for a photo shoot.
Guerrero’s uncle, Duane Willemain, accompanied her during the trip to Pacifica, California, where Haatepah lived in September 2020. Willemain confirmed that he met Haatepah and the photographer when he dropped Guerrero off for the shoot and then picked her up later in the evening. Guerrero told her close friend and mentor Jen Knightstep about the alleged assault the morning after and said she "felt sick" about what had happened. Weeks later, Guerrero told Knightstep that she was worried about being pregnant and asked for advice. Knightstep confirmed the details of the conversations with NBC News.
Haatepah, who is also of Indigenous Mexican descent, has modeled for Gucci, Vogue Mexico and Ralph Lauren. He has since deleted his social media accounts, including Instagram and TikTok.
Haatepah denied the allegations and said he is “currently working with [the] community to resolve these types of rumors at hand the traditional way.” A representative for Marilyn Agency confirmed that the company no longer represents Haatepah but couldn’t disclose when it stopped working with him. Storm Management, which also represented Haatepah, did not respond to NBC News’ requests for comment.
Guerrero said she has been harassed by his supporters and family members.
While many Indigenous women voiced their support for Guerrero and denounced Haatepah, Guerrero said she is frustrated that her story was obscured by the discourse surrounding Hart and Tsosie.
“It made me really angry. ... Nobody seems to care when our women go missing or get murdered, or in my case, raped,” Guerrero said. “It made me lose hope for a minute. I really thought that my story would die out and that he would get to keep going with his work the way he has been, and hurt more women.”
The Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, or MMIW, movement seeks to raise awareness about the disproportionate violence against Indigenous women. Also abbreviated as MMIWTS to include two-spirit people, the movement was widely discussed on Native TikTok until Hart and Tsosie’s dispute. Though Indigenous creators have tried to continue raising awareness, many say the conversations have been derailed by debates about Hart and Tsosie’s relationship.
Little Snow Bird, for example, is organizing an MMIW rally to raise awareness for her cousin, who has been missing since October. But the videos about the event aren’t getting the attention that videos about Hart and Tsosie’s conflict receive.
“It’s really embarrassing for the Native community, that this is what gets attention,” Little Snow Bird said. “Not that my cousin’s missing, and she has two small children at home. ... There are people being killed. Why the [expletive] does everybody care so much about Lance and Chelsea having sex?”
Even the videos Guerrero posted on TikTok coming forward with her allegations were sidelined by comments about Tsosie. When she expressed frustration that her experience was being compared to Hart’s, Guerrero said she was accused of not supporting other survivors.
“To have it dismissed as more drama is completely invalidating and harmful. I don’t feel like it’s on the same level at all,” Guerrero said.
‘Open season’ on Indigenous women and two-spirit creators
Little Snow Bird described the harassment as “open season on Indigenous women.” She said she believes the backlash is fueling “any” hate, even if it isn’t related to the conflict between Hart and Tsosie.
Little Snow Bird was working with Tsosie on an organization that would distribute free traditional medicine to other Indigenous people. To promote the free medicine, she posted videos with Tsosie nearly a year ago. To see any of the content with him, a TikTok user would have to scroll through “four or five dozen” videos, Little Snow Bird said.
“Of course I am disappointed that Lance is out here sleeping unprotected in the big old year 2022,” Little Snow Bird said. “Well I didn’t know a year ago that he was a floozy.”
Witchy was one of the most prominent creators who was harassed for her association with Tsosie. The two creators followed each other, but Witchy said they’ve only had a handful of conversations. In response to the accusations linking her to Tsosie, Witchy posted a lighthearted video trying to dispel rumors. Instead, it incited a fresh wave of harassment from Hart’s supporters, who accused her of defending Tsosie and mocking sexual assault survivors.
“I thought that would be the end of it, and it was not,” Witchy said. “Because Chelsea’s community that were defending her, were accusing me of lying ... I wanted everybody to leave me out of this, to leave me alone. I’m not involved.”
Hart’s supporters mass-reported Witchy’s original account for violating community guidelines until it was banned. Witchy made a second account, which was also mass-reported.
Even creators who were trying to defend Witchy were accused of “not standing with women.” Mari Russell, a Black and Native two-spirit creator, said they used to look up to Tsosie. Russell uses both she and they pronouns. When Russell, 22, criticized the “white allies” attacking Witchy, they were also harassed.
Why are Indigenous women being pulled into something that they don’t need to be pulled into?
Mari Russell, a Black and Native Two-Spirit creator
“Why are Indigenous women being pulled into something that they don’t need to be pulled into?” Russell said. “It wasn’t our situation. People thought, ‘You’re defending what Lance is doing?’ And I’m like, ‘No, I’m defending my friend.’”
They said they’ve received hateful comments from “white supremacists” before, but it didn’t compare to the level of organized harassment they received from white women following this dispute.
“When it comes down to white women, and the mob mentality that they have, I feel more fearful towards that than dealing with white supremacists,” Russell said.
Hart said they didn’t have access to their phone in the hospital and couldn’t speak out against the harassment of the Indigenous community. They recently renounced TikTok and since returning from the hospital only posted on their Instagram story, where the backlash is less severe.
“It’s just the fact that I was a very large white creator that was well known,” Hart said. “People just flocked to this rather than listening to the line of Indigenous women who have been speaking, and in turn, those women then had to be re-traumatized with misogyny for trying to speak their stories because of my story. That’s 100 percent valid criticism.”