A woman who describes herself as a “mixed Native woman” and who is an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation says that U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts democrat, should apologize to Native Americans for misappropriating the Cherokee identity.
Last week, President Trump brought back the derisive “Pocahontas” nickname for Warren during a White House ceremony for the Navajo code talkers who were heroes of World War II. In several subsequent media interviews, Warren, a former Harvard Law School professor and presumed 2020 presidential candidate against Trump if she wins reelection to the Senate in 2018, accused the president of making a racial slur. In response, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told the media that “I think what most people find offensive is Senator Warren lying about her heritage to advance her career.”
In an Op-Ed for the liberal/progressive Think Progress website, writer and Cherokee Nation citizen Rebecca Nagle, who is no fan of Trump, rejected the premise that Elizabeth Warren represents Native Americans.
“As a young Cherokee woman, one would assume that I would take Warren’s side in standing up against Trump’s racist remark…She was not a hero to me when she failed to foster a haven of support for Native students within Harvard University’s alienating Ivy League culture. She is not a hero for spending years awkwardly avoiding Native leaders. She is not a hero because, despite claiming to be the only Native woman in the U.S. Senate, she has done nothing to advance our rights…She is not from us. She does not represent us. She is not Cherokee…It appears that Warren categorized herself as a minority when it served her career and later dropped the marker after gaining tenure…Warren’s misrepresentation of her heritage has major consequences for Native Americans, who have little visibility not only in politics, but in American culture at large.”
In drafting an apology for the senator to theoretically use that appears in the article, Nagle added the following recommendation.
“Sen. Warren needs to accept responsibility for misappropriating Native identity for her own economic and political gain.”
To put this controversy in some context, political critics of Elizabeth Warren originally mocked her with the derisive “Fauxcahontas” (rather than Pocahontas) nickname, which is a play on words from the election about five years ago.
In running against then-Senator Scott Brown (who is now U.S. ambassador to New Zealand) in 2012, Elizabeth Warren maintained that she was 1/32 Cherokee based on Oklahoma family folklore including that her grandfather had high cheek bones, but no formal corroboration of this claim’s validity has ever emerged. There are persistent allegations that Warren nonetheless used her “minority” status to obtain important law teaching positions at several Ivy League universities under affirmative action.
Last year, a prominent Native American writer referred to Warren as a “Pretendian.” In 2012, Cherokee genealogist Twila Barnes asserted that no authentication existed for Warren’s purported Native American heritage.
In May 2012, The Atlantic, a liberal publication, declared in a detailed story that based on genealogical evidence, Warren was not eligible for membership in one of any three Cherokee tribes recognized by the U.S. government, but also insisted, however, that she never benefited in her professional career from claiming that heritage.
As previously reported by the Inquisitr, an actual descendant of the real-life Pocahontas, Trump supporter Debbie “White Dove” Porreco, told Sky News in the U.K. that she took no offense from the president’s use of the term for Warren.
According to Boston journalist and radio talk show host Howie Carr, a Trump backer, Elizabeth Warren allegedly plagiarized two recipes that she submitted for publication in the 1984 Native American-themed cookbook titled Pow Wow Chow, Fox News Insider reported.
“Carr said Warren claimed that the recipes had been passed down for generations in her Cherokee family. But, he said that the recipes actually came from a former ritzy New York City restaurant owned by late French chef Pierre Franey.”
The Pocahontas controversy will likely reemerge in the 2018 election cycle as Republicans attempt to unseat Elizabeth Warren in the blue state of Massachusetts.