Elizabeth Warren has claimed Cherokee ancestry, but has she got proof?

Elizabeth Warren Facing Criticism at Democratic National Convention from American Indian Delegates

Rob Capriccioso

With the Democratic National Convention (DNC) kicking off today, U.S. Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren is facing criticism from several American Indian delegates who are pressing her for a meeting during the event to talk about her claims of Native ancestry.

Warren, running as a Democrat in Massachusetts, has said family folklore indicates she is some part Cherokee, but genealogical research hasn’t supported that notion, and she is not enrolled in any tribe. She has also not been known to be active or close with any Indian communities, organizations, or individuals.

Harvard Law School touted her as Native American after she was hired there in the 1990s and after she listed herself as minority in a law directory, but neither the school, nor Warren, had any proof that she is Native.

The Boston press is hounding Warren, who is scheduled to speak at the Charlotte, North Carolina-based convention on the evening of September 5, to come clean on why she has not met with American Indians to discuss her claims, which gained nationwide attention in late-April.

Warren has said she has already responded to questions about her heritage, but many questions linger.

American Indian delegates – of which there will be dozens at the convention – have asked her for a one-on-one meeting to explain herself, and to allow for a dialogue, which was the motivation she has previously cited for listing herself in the legal directory as a minority.

“I think she owes us that, she owes the Native American community here at least that,” Stephen Lewis, a citizen of the Gila River Indian community, told the Boston Herald at the convention. “That would go a long way in dispelling that question.”

“If you are Native, there is no doubt, and if one has to research to try and ascertain if they are Native American, I would have great concerns with that and I think naturally I would just wonder if that was a vehicle she would want to use to her benefit,” Frank LaMere, a Nebraska Winnebago tribal citizen, also told the paper. “If that is the case, shame on her.”

“If you’re going to claim that you are American Indian and a descendant of some Native nation then you have to represent,” Sharon Stewart-Peregoy, a Montana state senator and member of the Crow Nation, told the paper. “You have to step up and bring those (American Indian) issues forward. That’s what it’s all about.”

Some Indians attending the DNC – even though they are loyal Democrats – were quoted as saying that Warren should not be supported if she has lied about the situation.

“I wouldn’t vote for anybody that is being dishonest, and it’s unfair to our people,” Harlyn Geronimo, an Apache citizen, told the paper.

The Native American Caucus is scheduled to meet at the DNC on September 5. Warren’s campaign has not responded to requests for comment on whether she will attend the event.

Related Articles:

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ICTMN’s Rob Capriccioso Discusses Elizabeth Warren and Native American Identity on NPR

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Cherokee Women Try to Meet With Elizabeth Warren; Campaign Offends Them

We Should Denounce the Conduct of Harvard and Elizabeth Warren

Elizabeth Warren and the Ins and Outs of Indian Country

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nightrain's picture
Submitted by nightrain on
I watched Ms. Warren this morning on CBS This Morning, she was asked about the Democratic versus Republican platforms. Her reply was very informed, knowledgeable, and intelligent. She was very eloquent and succinct in her answer. If I were Cherokee, I'd be very proud to include her in my tribe, irregardless of the nit-pickers.

ojibwe's picture
Submitted by ojibwe on
The latent racism in this article is tragic and sad. Watching random American Indians put their superstitions and racist fears into print is always sad, and it happens with such frequency. I am an Ojibwe man, I have no problem with Warren's situation. One must remember that pundits and falsely outraged random citizens in Indian Country are not the final word, or even an authentic word on this subject. There are many American Indians that have not been counted. Anyone who believes that the so-called government records are complete or even honest is delusional. It is sad, and racist in my view, that this publication would publish this drivel as anything other than it is, a racist projection. Only proper tribal elders have any right to an opinion on this issue. None of the people talking right now have any moral or proper authority in this issue. This BIA-centric publication does not represent anyone but itself. There are plenty of American Indians willing to give Warren the benefit of the doubt.

tmsyr11's picture
Submitted by tmsyr11 on
Will these appointed “indian advocates” speaking on behalf of 'uninformed' indians furthermore pursue the truth behind Democrat Elizabeth Warren’s claims to her “indian heritage” at the DNC convention? Will these “advocates” support the small contingent of indian representatives at the DNC seeking to verify the Warren claims and be just as ADAMENT to the R-E-S-P-E-C-T for anything deemed “indian”? “I wouldn’t vote for anybody that is being dishonest, and it’s unfair to our people,” Harlyn Geronimo, an Apache citizen, told the paper. Harlyn, you have as much right to ASK THESE questions of Democrats especially in light of how the President with support of the DNC used YOUR family name "GERONIMO" to killling, I mean assissination, I mean take down of Osama "Geronimo" Bin Laden. Where is the DISRESPECT in not offering apologies for how GERONIMO was used by a President.

coledelaune's picture
Submitted by coledelaune on
I think it might be rather difficult (not to mention rather masochistic) for the Cherokees to "include her in their tribe" since she has effectively refused to acknowledge them since the details of this story emerged. Her appeal to progressive values in the context of the CFPB and economic theory is essentially immaterial to her conduct vis-a-vis this issue. It is abjectly contradictory for the Professor to promote herself as the prospective "first Senator from Massachusetts with a Native background" who is "proud" of her heritage while consistently declining to engage with either Native media outlets like the one you're reading or Cherokee citizens themselves who request an audience with her. Warren introduced this subject into the public discourse by facilitating Harvard's championship of her as a diversity faculty member who added to their multiculturalism, so questions about sentiments she herself has inserted into the political discussion is not unreasonable. And her pattern of deflection and evasion does not inspire much confidence that she will prove to be an advocate for the marginalized in the Senate considering how she is behaving toward an historically disenfranchised Indian community.

ojibwe's picture
Submitted by ojibwe on
My suspicion is that these "delegates" are plants or operatives of the GOP. This sounds like a calculated attempt to disrupt her position in her campaign. There is no law or reason why someone should be bullied and pressured by self-proclaimed "delegates".....I am an American Indian and I have no problem with Warren's situation.

coledelaune's picture
Submitted by coledelaune on
Your contention that the delegates are covert right-wingers is either disingenuous, abjectly uneducated, or totally deranged, as Stewart-Peregoy is an Democratic member of the Montana legislature, Mr. LaMere has a lengthy history of activism, and Roe Lewis is similarly an elected tribal official whose conservatism would be a part of the public record if it existed. The question of "government records" constitutes only one element of the problematic nature of the Warren affair. More significantly, Professor Warren has demonstrated no familiarity with Cherokee culture, customs, traditions, rituals, history, or language despite facilitating and retrospectively endorsing Harvard's advertisement of her as a "woman of color" who contributed to the diversity quotient in Cambridge. She has, of course, asserted that she has "high cheekbones. . .like all the Indians do," a galling invocation of stereotypical external signifiers of race. Furthermore, she has refused to speak with any Native Americans during her campaign since this issue emerged, so how is she going to effectively represent the interests of a minority she ignores? It confounds logic to argue that someone who has no evidence to substantiate her hypothetical ethnic ancestry; declines to acknowledge those who "share" her lineage; and is unable to express any functional understanding of the culture constructed around that DNA is a member of that community.

coledelaune's picture
Submitted by coledelaune on
Additionally, per your belief that, "Only proper tribal elders have any right to an opinion on this issue," you evidently feel it is appropriate to apply a litmus test to those critically analyzing the situation, but not to Warren herself? That's not inconsistent at all or anything. And asking natural questions about sentiments and notions an aspirant to elected office herself introducted into the public discourse is "racist"? If you earnestly subscribe to that point of view, why do you feel Objibwe customs and traditions are significant? Per the formula you're advancing, anyone should apparently be able to include themselves under the tribal umbrella, irrespective of ancestry or understanding of the importance of rituals and the past. Those who are unambiguously not connected to your people in any respect would have as much claim to the mantle of Objibwe distinction without the slightest grasp of what that distinction means, and the nuances that differentiate one people from another would essentially be rendered void of any import.

lmann's picture
Submitted by lmann on
And that’s the beauty of being who we are “Ojibwe” Free and sovereign people. So it’s also unfair for you to dismiss others feeling about what Ms. Warren did. I think you have missed the entire point. You do make good points about Natives not be counted. But Ms. Warren; now that she has an opportunity to Be counted she’s hiding and ducking from the very people she claims to have a descendancy. I’m actually proud and inspired by our Native brothers and sisters who cross party lines to speak out against this. I’m a registered democrat and I will not support her. With the disproportionate amount of Native scholars working twice as hard to traverse the world of academia; you really don’t have a problem with someone who is sitting in a seat under perfidious means??

russellhicks's picture
Submitted by russellhicks on
“Warren Pretender-of the Cheating Tribe” There once was a “middling*” attorney– Had to distance herself from the “herd” Of so many hopefuls, with credentials so boastful She knew she would never be heard. So she traded her license to practice, For a “poetic license” of sorts. She became “part Cherokee”, and then Harvard could see, She’d appear in “Minority Reports”. Just this year, though, her “license” was *cancelled*, By true Cherokee’s who had LOTS of proof, That her “massive white lie”, just could not justify, Her false claims—it was all just a “spoof”! But her training in law had prepared her, To ignore even truth’s mighty power. “Doubled down” on her lies, she kept up her disguise, Trusting she was BO’s “star” of the Hour”. Well our story’s not ended so quickly, For the people of MASS must now choose. Do they elect “the Pretender”, or do they send her, Back to law school to learn ethics rules! * Middling = mediocre, second-rate. COPY FREELY – no rights reserved.