Scott Brown Staffers Mock Elizabeth Warren's 'Native Identity' With 'Tomahawk Chops' on Video

Mark Trahant

On Tuesday the issue of Elizabeth Warren’s Native identity turned ugly. A Boston CBS station, WCVB, reported that staffers for Brown chanted "war whoops" and made "tomahawk chops" to show their distaste for Warren's background. When asked about it by that station. Brown said he didn't condone it, but said "the real offense is that (Warren) said she was white and then checked the box saying she is Native American, and then she changed her profile in the law directory once she made her tenure." The ugly side of this issue – racist imagery – has been with the campaign for months, just under the surface. This spring headlines included "Sitting Bull***" to "Pinocchio-hontas." The Native American Journalists Association issued a statement that said: "NAJA is disappointed that coverage of U.S. Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren's claimed Native heritage has resulted in a series of disrespectful headlines and puns that show disregard for Native Americans and our history."

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myche's picture
Submitted by myche on
I am of Irish, Scandinavian background and my family has been in the Nebraska, Dakota Indian country since the beginning of the 1900s. I grew up with and know the kind of prejudice that goes on between the people of Native American ancestry and European ancestry and also the prejudice that existed among the different European ethnic groups. I also know there are mixed communities of European and Native American ancestry on the different Rez's where the there are mixed relationships among the different ethnic groups that live there and it was more acceptable for Native Americans and European Americans to date and marry. I went to high school with a Native American teenager who was treated just like everyone else. He was a star on the basketball team and no one carried who he dated. Native Americans were ok as long as they lived in town and integrated themselves into the community. This was basically true for all outsiders who were not born in town, if they had jobs and integrated purposely into the community they were accepted. I know this because I taught school in little towns and in most towns myself and my family were accepted as long as I had a job. The next level of acceptance in the community came if you or one of your kids married somebody from the community, There were all levels of prejudice in town. There were people who were prejudiced of anybody of mixed ethnicity. If somebody had mixed European and Native American ancestry and appear more European if they were sensitive to the prejudice they could be very concerned if they had physical features of Native Americans. What I am saying is that what Elizabeth Warren states that a member of her family walked past a picture and paid attention to the high cheek bones or shape of the nose and pondered about her Native American physical attributes, is quite possible. There is nothing in Elizabeth Warren's story from the European side of the fence. When the son of the friend of my parents married a Hispanic girl, I heard all kinds of nasty comments. People of mixed Native American and European ancestry who identified and tried to live in the European American world would not want to keep or have any documentation of their Native American ancestors. Within the family there would be whispered stories and mixed feelings about it. In researching my own ancestors, I am finding even in census records disparities in people recording their ethnic background and the place their parent were born. My own father who has passed away was born in New York, but on his Navy records said he was born in Nebraska. He was on the Orphan Train and adopted by a family in Nebraska. There was not all of this standardization and people who had parents die when they were very young forgot where they were born so put down what they thought. Elizabeth Warren is not applying for membership in a tribe so she needs no documentation to prove her family history. She was smart, articulate, and well educated and earned these jobs, just like all of the other professors. What those who hired her knew or didn't know of her ethnic background would not get her jobs as a professor, especially if she was not the best qualified to get the job. If someone made note of it so what. The issue of Elizabeth Warren's ethnic background has nothing to do with her becoming a senator. The fact that this is an issue shows Scott Brown's prejudices. This issue simply brings to light the prejudice and civil rights struggles that go on in Indian Country and in cities that Native Americans have migrated to. This country has never dealt with Native American issues and the residue of feelings from the Native American Wars and the European American effort to totally wipe out Native American culture and identity and to confine Native Americans to Reservations or scatter them into ghettos in the cities.

ribluebird's picture
Submitted by ribluebird on
It is a shame I do not live in MA, but I would be knocking on doors up and down the state for Elizabeth Warren, Scott Brown should be ashamed of his crew who are behaving in a manner that does not supports freedom for all. I would love to see this on one of our TV stations, but then anything in regards to NA's is swepted under the rug. When you think about it maybe Scott should be the color of his name Brown and see how his life is.

tejas's picture
Submitted by tejas on
As a Massachusetts voter, I am applalded by the racism of Scot Brown. This heckling gang of "warriors" is the latest example. Brown saying Warren didn't look like a American Indian was the outrage earlier this week. That Indian Country Today has lent its ear to Brown's campaigners who are have attacked People of Color in Massachusets is disgraceful. Warren is proud of her heritage, and claims nothing more. Anyone who claims she "benefited" from passing herself off as Native, shows there ignorance of Harvard and other serious research Universities. They don't look at "check boxes" they engage in serious department wide discernment. But the child that ICT has publishing knows nothing of Warren, or Law school. He knows nothing of humility. The sucker that was born that minute.

softbreeze's picture
Submitted by softbreeze on
Well well...If this doesn't show Scott Brown's true colors in regards to this issue of Native ancestry, I don't know what does. If he was truly concerned about the Original People of Turtle Island, his staff would have never even entertained the idea of behaving in such an ignorant, disrespectful, and racist manner. If his staff had shown up wearing black face and making fun of people who are of African descent, and were mocking there original culture, there would be an uprising. So, apparently, in the U.S., the original Native People are not considered Human Beings like everyone else. How sad people feel this way, because if they only knew the truth, they would realize just how backwards and false their chosen and convenient beliefs really are. I am completely disgusted and offended. Words cannot describe how watching this video makes me feel. Just so all of you non-natives know, even though I am completely outraged by this, because of my cultural beliefs, I choose to love you anyway, even if I don't like you a whole lot. And that's because you are my brothers and sisters, whether you know it or not. Mziwi.

pauwin2087333's picture
Submitted by pauwin2087333 on
Republican Scott Brown must be disqualified for showing disrespect and racial acts that is paid by the taxes of Massachusetts. He should realize that there are still to this day Native Americans in that state and he has the nerve to deny the racial social structure he and his Republican party created especially on National Television. There are millions of Native(Indigenous)Americans in the United States. This is not good for the Republicans as they segregate the Indigenous people as the "other". Also the name "Redskins" must be permanently removed from the NFL Team. You don't see a NFL team that is named "backstabbing white trash" do you? Racism needs to stop and it's about time to say something. I will be creating a petition for anyone to sign that directly deals with the disrespect stereotypes images of the Native American. Sometimes I'm ashamed to be call American.

normanf's picture
Submitted by normanf on
it just goes to show how republicans view people of other cultures. they ( republicans) are stupid & ignorant. I dont think brown & his supporters know that there are many americans with american indian blood & cherokee is the most common. Ive been told that there are cherokee that are descendants of israelites that were banished by the assyrians. Also does scott brown know of the blood quantum law?

lenapeman12's picture
Submitted by lenapeman12 on
Well now we see what Scott Brown, his staff, and his supporters are truly all about. I haven't heard or seen such ignorant nonsense since I was a child in elementary school four decades ago. I am an enrolled tribal member of a federally recognized American Indian tribe and am also of mixed ethnic heritage. My mother is a full blood American Indi'n of three different tribes, from what I understand, this became quite common after the advent of the BIA boarding school system, but is also an accompanying result of the forced dislocation of American Indians in the nineteenth century or Manifest Destiny Era of U.S. history, especially in Oklahoma. My father was of White, German, ancestry. I attended public schools in a suburb of a major U.S. city that were approximately ninety percent white and I was one of less than a handful of Native Americans in my high school class of approximately one thousand students, one of two enrolled tribal members, my cousin and myself. When I was a child, growing up in a blue collar, lower middle class section of my hometown, I was often taunted with nicknames like, "chief," "Tonto," "Kimosabe," "Half-breed," "redskin," "Sitting Bullsh*t," etc., and occasionally greeted by a raised palm accompanied by the deadpanned, "How," had other children pull on the outer edges of their eyes and stupidly and incorrectly call me "Chinese" (mocking the shape of my phenotypically American Indi'n features that conform to the stereotypical American Indian ideal created by anthropologists like Aleš Hrdli?ka), taunted by "war whoops," an imitation of the lulu that our women do to honor and spur on our men and boys at times, but have come to realize it is a highly honoring gesture for any American Indian to receive (I was very proud to have my mother lulu for me, and the other American Indi'n students at my graduation from the university, as the first member of my family to attend college and earn a bachelor's degree). When I was a child and was taunted with "war whoops" of this kind, I would ask my mother why they taunted me this way and she would say, "They don't know any better. Just ignore them, they're ignorant." (I am constantly amazed that idiotic white males have no idea that men in our culture do not lulu, only women.) When I would get sent to the principal's office for trying to stop my tormentors from taunting me in this way, usually via a fight, I was treated as the one who was "wrong" or the instigator of the fisticuffs and usually given the lion's share of the punishment or was the only one punished. One more example of the true state of colonialism that obviously still exists for native people in their own homeland we now call the United States of America. It angers me to see Scott Brown and his minions perpetuate such ignorant behavior I felt was the behavior of schoolyard immaturity relegated to the distant past. Yet there it is, in the present day, in public, before cameras, smirking with impunity at the attempted denigration of another human being because of her ancestry to one of my proud American Indi'n brethren. Showing disrespect to a woman in this way, and an elder to boot, it's beyond appalling, it's the acts of pathetic, desperate, ignorant, racist whites. I'd like to smack this little punk the way I did to other ignorant punks back in grade school. It appears Scott Brown is complicit in such behavior and shows that some ignorant whites in the USA think it is acceptable to denigrate and impune American Indians and their heritage with racist taunts. I know this: voters of Massachusetts deserve better than a small-minded male (I can hardly call him a "Man") like this. Do the right thing and vote out this schoolyard bully that condones such immature actions from his staff and supporters. When will the people of this country ever act in the "civilized" way they always told us we native people were not, which was used as a reason to dispossess of our land, culture, language and traditions, and to many of our ancestors, their lives?

bintdeeb's picture
Submitted by bintdeeb on