Elizabeth Warren’s old scandal has resurfaced now that her prominence within the Democratic Party has been spotlighted during the 2016 Democratic presidential nominating election. In 2012, Elizabeth Warren faced opposition for claiming Native American lineage. Elizabeth Warren listed herself as an American Indian minority while a professor from 1986 to 1995, according to Indian Country Today Media Network. This month, the scandal resurfaced on social media after speculation that Warren will be Hillary Clinton’s running mate should Clinton become the Democratic nominee.
— C.C.Hawthorne (@colleenglover06) June 9, 2016
Cherokees Demand Truth from Elizabeth Warren: Elizabeth Warren: False Claim of Cherokee Ancestry #TrumpIsRight https://t.co/hIASKb4xvi
— Mike 4 Trump (@clanceman65) June 12, 2016
— Kim 4 Trump (@MirageRanch) June 12, 2016
When questioned about the Cherokee protestors, Warren refused to discuss & said she wanted to get back to “important issues.” #NativeErasure
— Kathryn NicDhàna (@nicdhana) June 18, 2016
During an old interview on Broadside, Elizabeth Warren said that the actual percentage of her bloodline that is Native American doesn’t actually matter. Warren was called out for being just 1/32 Native American.
“No, that doesn’t tell you. Don’t do that,” Warren exclaimed in the interview. “It’s not about the number!”
Watch the uncomfortable exchange below.
That year, Cherokee Genealogist Twila Barnes went public with Warren over her Native American ancestral claims when Warren had reported herself to be a Native American on paperwork, giving her minority status. She claimed it was because she wanted to meet other people like her. Warren claimed that her great, great, great grandma was believed to be Cherokee. Barnes wrote that she wasn’t so sure that even that is accurate.
Barnes wrote an open letter to Warren in 2012 on her blog Thoughts From Polly’s Granddaughter, which still remains online today. Barnes says that most people don’t understand the extraordinary genealogy records available about the people of the Cherokee nation and their descendants.
“We wonder why you believe you have the right to claim Cherokee ancestry and to call yourself a Native American when you have no evidence to support your claim. While you cling to a family story and the inaccurate report that ONE document was found that supports your claim, we real Cherokees understand that those things mean nothing. You see, we Cherokees have lots and lots and lots of documentation supporting our claims of our ancestry. Our Cherokee ancestors are found on every roll of the Cherokee Nation (30+ rolls!) dating back to before the removal and in all sorts of other documentation, including but not limited to claims against the US government for lost property; the Moravian missionary records; ration lists before and after the forced removal, etc…yet your ancestors are found in NONE of those records.”
Barnes said at the time that Warren’s ancestors are found in historical records, and every time, “they are found living as white people among other white people.”
“You have claimed something you had no right to claim — our history and our heritage and our identity,” Barnes wrote in the open letter to Warren. “Those things belong to us, and us alone. These are not things we choose to embrace when they benefit us and then cast aside when we no longer need them, but that is what you seem to have done by ‘checking a box’ for several years and then no longer ‘checking’ it more recently, when apparently you no longer needed it.”
When asked for evidence at the time that she actually had Cherokee genes in her, Warren’s campaign reportedly offered two items: Recipes published in the Pow Wow Chow Cookbook, which were reportedly copied from a 1979 New York Times News Service article by Pierre Franey and an application for a marriage license that allegedly turned out to be fake.
If Warren’s original claim of being just over three percent Cherokee is actually true, that would indeed put her above the national average of European American’s percentage of Native American genetic makeup. Still, Warren was born in Oklahoma, where more than 14 percent of African Americans carry greater than two percent Native American ancestry, because Oklahoma was the site of contact between Native Americans and African Americans after the Trail of Tears migration where two oppressed races were brought together against their will at the hands of European Americans.
“The Cherokee were herded at bayonet point in a forced march of 1,000 miles ending with our arrival in ‘Indian Territory,’ which is today part of the state of Oklahoma,” the Cherokee Nation’s website explains. “Thousands died in the internment camps, along the trail itself and even after their arrival due to the effects of the journey.”
Census data has found that almost 70 percent of respondents in the U.S. self-identify as being part Cherokee, according to Slate. Interestingly, Vine Deloria, of NCAI, told Slate, “from Maine to Washington State,” white Americans insist they are descended from Cherokee ancestors, and that more often than not, that ancestor is said to have been an “Indian princess,” though the Cherokee Nation never had a social system that included any title resembling the notion of a princess. Warren is far from the only white American claiming that they are “part Cherokee,” and many people of the Cherokee Nation, who are still struggling to maintain their sovereignty, say that the identity theft from white Americans is just one more assault against them.