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

Poll Shows Independents Care About Warren’s Native Fiasco

Rob Capriccioso

While some political spectators, including those within the Democratic campaign of Massachusetts U.S. Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren, have said they don’t believe her ongoing American Indian ancestry controversy really matters to voters, a new poll suggests otherwise.

According to a University of New Hampshire poll conducted for The Boston Globe, the Warren controversy could be most damaging for her among independent voters—a bloc she needs to do well with to defeat Republican incumbent Scott Brown.

In the poll, 43 percent of Democrats and 48 percent of independents who said they plan to vote for Brown indicated that the controversy has made them less likely to vote for Warren.

“It’s having an impact early on in the campaign when the Warren campaign really wants to be talking about economic issues,” pollster Andrew Smith told radio station WBUR.

Jim Barnett, campaign manager for the Brown campaign, told Indian Country Today Media Network that he believes the controversy has been very damaging to Warren.

“If you look into the crosstabs of these polls, you’ll see that for people who are aware of this controversy, it’s done significant damage,” Barnett said.

“For people who understand that there’s been no evidence presented that she’s a Native American and that she has misrepresented that, they are overwhelmingly in favor of Scott Brown,” Barnett added.

The Brown campaign in recent days has called on Warren to reach out to Native Americans to address the controversy.

Another recent poll, conducted by Western New England University, showed Warren’s unfavorability ratings to be increasing more quickly than her favorability ratings.

Since the issue was first reported on April 27, Warren has been unable to point to solid evidence to back up Native ancestry that she related to universities she has worked for, including Harvard Law School and the University of Pennsylvania. Warren also initially denied telling the universities that she was Native, but when federal filing data contradicted that position, she admitted she had done so. She has maintained that family lore supports her belief in her ancestry.

Earlier reports indicating that Warren is 1/32nd Cherokee have not been able to be proven by genealogical researchers.

Native Americans have been concerned that Warren’s hiring may have prevented a Native faculty candidate with documentation to be considered from being hired at the universities she worked for.

Warren has also earned criticism for dodging opportunities to discuss the matter with Indians, despite saying in May that she had listed herself as minority earlier in her career in an effort to meet people like her.

ICTMN has asked her campaign repeatedly for Warren to address the questions, but her campaign has avoided all requests since early May.

Last weekend, Warren was chosen as her party’s nominee at the state convention, defeating Democratic challenger Marisa DeFranco, who told ICTMN the day before the vote that Warren should be reaching out to Native American constituents.

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quinzy's picture
Submitted by quinzy on
I don't believe Warren is Indian but it doesn't matter what I believe because the issue is between Warren and her ancestors. But I like the fact that she is on the hot seat because hopefully it will deter others taking advantage of native status. Then again, to be fair to Warren, I must admit that if someone asks me to "prove" the very small quantum of Black blood in me, there is no way I could prove it. I can easily see why it is difficult for someone to "prove" they have Indian blood in them. Indians have been enslaved, shipped to foreign regions as slave labor and totally devastated by our colonizers, so it should be exponentially difficult for someone to prove they have Indian blood in them. In all the discussion above, we are making the mistake of defining Indian as whites define Indian - by blood quantum. Blood quantum is a white definition. Indian is a cultural definition. Note that Indians cannot be defined by membership in Indian nations either because then skins who have been booted out of their tribes over casino money politics are not Indian, skins who lost their status because of governmental interventions (e.g. Bill C-31 losses) won't be Indian, full bloods who are ineligible for membership in their Nations because their parents belong to different tribes won't be Indian, etc. Either you are culturally a skin or you are not. Culturally, I think Warren is not Indian but I and the rest of us have no business meddling in what should be between her and her ancestors.

ikwewe's picture
Submitted by ikwewe on
My Take on Elizabeth Warren and her Native American Heritage Somehow, the media wants to make this an issue of "character," apparently suggesting that someone who claims to be Native American but can't prove it is lacking in the character needed to serve in the US Senate. After thinking about this for some time, reading numerous opinions from Natives and non-natives, I have finally come up with a way to present my position on this matter. There are a number of issues roiling at the top of this to-do, all of recent development. 1) Somehow it is a wonderful thing to be Native American 2) One who claims it gets big advantages 3) One who claims it has to be able to prove it Elizabeth Warren was born in 1949 in Oklahoma, and she was raised in Oklahoma. Both the time and the place have a lot to do with shaping her family beliefs about their heritage. Through the 40s, 50s and 60s, being Native American was not a good thing, particularly in areas with large Indian populations. Discrimination was rampant, perception was that Indians were lazy and drunk, with the women being single parent baby machines with children by many different absent fathers. A lot of people with Indian heritage kept it to themselves through that time, yet there were many who wanted their children to know that Indian heritage could be something to be proud of. Being raised in a city with a majority white population rendered Indian heritage completely irrelevant in society, in school. If you could fit in by ignoring your heritage yourself, it was a lot easier to get along. This is the kind of societal pressure that Warren no doubt grew up with. There was no reason for her family to seek community recognition as Indian, no reason to pursue enrollment. Historically, it was not that important. In the 30s, my Dad had to be a quarter to go to Haskell, and that is what he claimed. In truth, he was 3/4. I had trouble with his claim when I applied for BIA loans in the 60s, and had to get the background straightened out. Enrollment was still not that sought after at that time. After the state passed Michigan Indian Tuition Waiver in 1976, many who had been in the same condition sought and achieved tribal enrollment. I counseled many people about proving their tribal membership through the 70, 80s and 90s. In our black community there are still many who have this heritage but have not sought enrollment. Because of the history of American Indians' relations with the US and mainstream society, I see Ms. Warren's views on her heritage as quite common. How and why she claimed it at Harvard might be interesting, but she has been there since 1992. No one has been able to show that Warren got anything for claiming her family heritage. If Harvard got any advantage from it, they might need to look at their recognition methods. Self-identification is really not sufficient. These days, in order to claim Native American status to qualify for specific grants or programs, a person must prove tribal membership, BIA recognition, or community recognition. There has been a lot of development in Indian country in the past 20 years that might impact how someone feels about this, but the historic past is really at the root of it. It should not adversely reflect on her character in the way the political communities are trying to show.

mybuddyrobin's picture
Submitted by mybuddyrobin on
I am a 'drip-drop' ndn. I am a mutt. I am mix of at least 8 different cultures (2 being Native - S. Ute and ? ). ****I am ALL of my ancestors...whether I can prove them or NOT.****** No one ever challenges me when I say I am 1/4 Mexican, part Scottish, German, English, Norman, ect. YET random people (mostly white) think they have the right to challenge me when I speak about my Native heritage. The chief's brother (S. Ute) didn't challenge me or tell me I was wrong when I asked his advice how to proceed to learn more about my heritage and the Ute people. He laughed and said, "well you ARE a breed now aren't you". He didn't say pull out your proof. I was welcomed and taught. (I am grateful for that btw ;-) ) I really understand Ms. Warren's challenge. Being a mutt is difficult. Who do you get to be? In the past, people of my coloring (blond and fair skin...only brown eyes and beautiful ndn cheekbones tell of my heritage) would happily fly under the radar...hide their ndn-ness... hide the Latino heritage... just claim dominant race, white. WELL NOT ME! I am proud of my mix. No one has the right to take my ancesters away from me simply because of some lame-azz piece of paper that if everyone was honest takes more away than it gives? I don't expect to be registered within a tribe. But honestly, tribal registration does not make someone more or less native...that rests with the ancesters. THAT is the authority I recognise. Not a Foreign power who prints cards and steals my rights, responsibilities and family from me. In Australia, my Aboriginal friends tell me that not one child of theirs will be lost. IF anyone comes and claims Aborig. heritage, they take them under their wing. They teach them the history. They embrace as a long lost relative. I don't want to take anything from my brothers and sisters. I want to give back. My family hid from the authorities. They lived with the majority. I do not deserve nor want any of the benefits. I want to learn and embrace my ancestors and their culture. Personally, I have met very few people like me (mutts/drip drop ndns) who want to take. It is the white culture who thinks like that. I have met a few white people (quite a few) who say I should try to get scholarships and benefits from my heritage... at that I smile and quietly say, "don't you think enough has been taken? Isn't it time for all of us to give back? My ancestors were not brave enough to stand up and be counted on the rolls...I owe an awful lot to the brothers and sisters whose ancestors did." Perhaps this can be a new era of embracing us 'breeds'. We need to be counted...blood quantum is a way for the whites to steal our lands forever...never have to be held accountable for the atrocities. I lost my heritage for too many years I will always remain true to my ancestors...ALL OF THEM! How can we count the children of the 7 generations if so many of them (us) are pushed away and denied? My Native heritage is within the 7 generations on both sides of my family. If the Full Bloods and the Half Breeds and the 'Drip-drops' all came together what power we could have. But the English saying "divide and rule" says it all. They divide us (still today!)...make us think we are doing the dividing...and they continue to rob and steal not only our lands (Dann sisters, Pine Ridge water poisoning, elders starving on the rez's both North and south) but our very heritage... isn't that wrong? When will we stand up and say ENOUGH! Don't we want more people incl. politicians to claim their true heritage? No one tears a politician down cuz they say they are Jewish Heritage or makes them prove they had an ancestor in Auschwitz... because the Jewish people GET IT, it gives them more power!!!! Let us finally come together... embrace all of the children of our ancestors... get our power back...finally restore the dignity and respect that we should have had all of the time. Being of Native heritage just like being of Jewish heritage doesn't mean we get anything...this is about us giving back and celebrating...tribal issues, in my eyes, are a different subject (and a sacred right). Why do I have to be in a tribe or asking for benefits in order to honor my Native ancestors? I don't for any of the other(at least 6)heritages that run in my bloodstream.

rockymissouri's picture
Submitted by rockymissouri on
I can relate to Elizabeth Warren..... Something so deeply personal, that cannot be proven...will NEVER be able to be proven......through no fault of your own... Just because some of your ancestors did not want to be on the rolls....! .......it hurts. It doesn't change who I am....and it doesn't change who Elizabeth Warren is... I STILL believe she will be a wonderful senator and ally of all people...it would be a shame for this innocent episode to be held against her...and should be, instead, seen as a part of the genuine human being that she is....!