Shania Twain’s ethnicity — Her confusing ancestry unraveled

Shania Twain

Shania Twain is back in the headlines following the release of her Netflix documentary Not Just A Girl, as well as a similarly titled digital album. The candid Twain discusses, among other things, the disease that almost ended her career and a divorce that dredged up memories of her parent’s death. 

Twain’s origins from Ontario, Canada, are well documented, but her ethnicity confounds fans. Part of the confusion stems from her name ‘Shania,’ which she allegedly drew from the Ojibwa Native American tribe.

Shania has French, Irish, and English ethnicity from her biological parents

Shania Twain was born on 28th August 1965 to Sharon and Clarence Edwards in Ontario, Canada. Sharon and Clarence named her Eilleen Regina Edwards. 

Eilleen and her sisters, Jill and Carrie Ann, drew English, Irish, and French ethnicity from her parents. In her memoir From This Moment On, Shania wrote that her Irish maternal grandmother, Eileen Pearce, originated from Newbridge, County Kildare. 

Twain is allegedly related to French carpenter Zacharie Cloutier through a maternal great-grandmother. Cloutier was a French carpenter who immigrated to modern-day Quebec, Canada, in the mid-17th century. 

Shania has no memory of growing up under Sharon and Clarence: she was 2 when they divorced. In an interview with The National Enquirer, Clarence blamed Sharon for the split:

“I was married to Shania’s mother for seven years, and I was there with Eilleen and her sister Carrie-Ann until they were 5 or 6. I had a very stressful job, being a railroad engineer. On top of that, Shania’s mom was a very jealous, possessive person. She didn’t like me to do normal things like go out for a beer with my friends.”

Twain courted controversy for claiming Native American ethnicity

After the divorce, Sharon married Jerry Twain, an Ojibwa man. After Jerry legally adopted Eilleen, she dropped the last name Edwards for Twain. In an interview, Twain refused to recognize Clarence’s parentage, declaring that she considered Jerry her father:

“My father [Jerry] went out of his way to raise three daughters that weren’t even his. For me to acknowledge another man as my father, a man who was never there for me as a father, who wasn’t the one who struggled every day to put food on our table, would have hurt him terribly.”

Shania’s registration as 50% North American Indian created some controversy. The Daily Press in Timmins, Ontario, published a story accusing Twain of lying about her ethnicity. 

The front-page report reiterated Jerry wasn’t Shania’s biological father; therefore, she couldn’t claim Native American ethnicity. An unidentified caller to The Daily Press questioned Shania’s connection to Native Americans. 

Twain’s biological paternal grandmother, Regina Nutbrown, told the outlet she was convinced the caller wasn’t a family member. “It surprised me,” she said. “I guess somebody in town got angry seeing Eilleen on television pretending we don’t exist.”

Shania’s publicist released a statement to the Orlando Sentinel explaining Twain’s claim to Native American ethnicity. The statement read:

“I don’t know how much Indian blood I actually have in me, but as the adopted daughter of my father Jerry, I became legally registered as 50 percent North American Indian.”

“Being raised by a full-blooded Indian and being a part of his family and their culture from such a young age is all I’ve ever known. That heritage is in my heart and my soul, and I’m proud of it.”