U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren made a surprise and apparently unexpected appearance today at the National Congress of American Indians’ Executive Council Winter Session and Tribal Nations Policy Summit in Washington, during which she gave a wide-ranging speech that addressed the real Pocahontas, her alleged Native American ancestry, and how she wants to help the Native American community with various challenges. As of the day before, Warren apparently was going to skip the session.
President Donald Trump will never take away her Native American heritage, Warren signified in her speech.
On several occasions, President Trump has mocked Warren, a former Harvard Law School professor, and a possible 2020 Democrat opponent if she wins reelection from Massachusetts this year, with the nickname “Pocahontas.” which foes of the president insist is a racial slur. The controversy got started about six years ago; in running against then-GOP 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 cheekbones. No formal corroboration of this claim’s validity has ever emerged, however. There are persistent allegations that Warren nonetheless used her “minority” status to obtain prestigious law teaching positions at several Ivy League universities under affirmative action.
In her presentation to tribal leaders, Oklahoma-born Elizabeth Warren talked about the hardships that the real Pocahontas faced, and her bravery and heroism in response, in contrast to Hollywood mythmaking, the Boston Globe reported. She then alluded to Trump’s ridicule, her family history, and her career trajectory.
“Our country’s disrespect of Native people didn’t start with President Trump. It started long before President Washington ever took office…The joke, I guess, is supposed to be on me. I get why some people think there’s hay to be made here. You won’t find my family members on any rolls, and I’m not enrolled in a tribe. And I want to make something clear. I respect that distinction. I understand that tribal membership is determined by tribes — and only by tribes. I never used my family tree to get a break or get ahead. I never used it to advance my career. But I want to make something else clear too: My parents were real people…But my mother’s family was part Native American…They’re gone, but the love they shared, the struggles they endured, the family they built, and the story they lived will always be a part of me. And no one — not even the president of the United States — will ever take that part of me away.”
She went on to say that her parents eloped at a young age, with the apparent implication that her father’s family opposed the relationship because of her mother’s heritage.
“Warren concluded the speech by saying that every time someone brings up her claimed ancestry, she talks about the larger Native American community instead,” the Washington Free Beacon noted, which some Warren critics on Twitter are describing as a deflection.
“So I’m here today to make a promise: Every time someone brings up my family’s story, I’m going to use it to lift up the story of your families and your communities.”
And today I made a promise to @NCAI1944 tribal leaders: Every time someone brings up my family’s story, I’m going to use it to lift up the story of their families & communities. Read my full remarks here. https://t.co/385viifuyY #ECWS2018
— Elizabeth Warren (@elizabethforma) February 14, 2018
A report published by Yahoo News on May 31, 2012, claimed that Elizabeth Warren admitted “that she identified herself as Native American to Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania when she taught at both schools.”
In that same time frame, Cherokee genealogist Twila Barnes asserted that no authentication existed for Warren’s purported Native American heritage. “Cherokee genealogists have traced Warren’s family tree and found no evidence to support her claim of minority status,” the Daily Caller added. Cherokee activist Rebecca Nagle has called upon the senator several times to take responsibility for cultural misappropriation.
Politico added the following about Elizabeth Warren’s resume.
“Questions surrounding Warren’s claims to Native American heritage — and the role it played in the advancement of her career in academia — have circulated since her first Senate bid. She had listed herself as a minority in a legal directory published by the Association of American Law schools from 1986 to 1995, and both Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania listed Warren as a Native American in federal forms filed by the law schools while she worked there.”
In May 2012, The Atlantic 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. The news outlet asserted, however, that she never benefited in her professional career from claiming that heritage.
Watch Elizabeth Warren’s speech to the Native American organizations below and draw your own conclusions.