Liz Goes on Warpath—Sticks to Story About Native American Ancestry Despite No Evidence Supporting Claim
2018 February 14
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has periodically been maligned throughout her elected political career for claiming Native American ancestry.
Sen. Warren has generally tried to refrain from publically commenting on her claims of Native American ancestry; however, during her first run for public office—2012 election against incumbent Massachusetts U.S. Sen Scott Brown—The Boston Herald disputed her ancestry while pointing out that Warren had been considered a minority professor while at Harvard. (1)
The issue of her alleged ancestry—Cherokee and Delaware Indian—become an issue of the campaign, and Sen. Brown used the Boston Herald story and related opposition research against her. (2) In particular, Sen. Brown accused Warren of using her “minority status” to advance her former academic career path.
The truth about whether Sen. Warren actively utilized claims of minority status to advance her career remains in dispute. While Sen. Warren claims she never used her heritage to gain professional advantage, Harvard University allegedly listed her as a Native American woman as part of its Federal Equal Opportunity Commission affirmative-action reporting, and Penn State reportedly gave her a “minority faculty” award in 1994. (2) The Harvard Crimson also referred to Warren as both “Native American” and as the “first woman with a minority background to be tenured.” (1)
Sen. Warren has never been able to show any documentation or other proof to support her alleged Native American ancestry, and during her Senate campaign attributed her understanding of the ancestry to hearing stories about it while a child. (3)
Based on all available information professional genealogists believe that Sen. Warren is, at best, 1/32nd Native American. (4)
In a Feb. 14 speech before the National Congress of American Indians, Sen. Warren accused Pres. Donald Trump of engaging in the “disrespect of Native people” by his constant referral of her as “Pocahontas.” She also emphatically asserted her claim to Native American heritage by stating, “My mother’s family was part Native American.” (5)
The New York Times reports that Sen. Warren’s unannounced appearance before the group was made to “confront a political liability before a potential bid for president.” (6)
1984 June: “Pow Wow Chow” cookbook published. The collection of recipes from the families of the “five civilized tribes (Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Seminole)” contains five recipes from Warren, who signs her entries as “Elizabeth Warren—Cherokee.” (7)
2012 April 27: Boston Herald reports that Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren was not able to provide the newspaper with proof of her alleged Native American heritage, but notes that Harvard Law school had cited her claim to such as proof of the faculty’s overall diversity. (1)
2012 April 30: The Boston Globe reports that U.S. Senate Candidate Elizabeth Warren had listed herself as a racial minority in two Association of American Law Schools directories between 1986 and 1995. (2)
2012 May 8: Breitbart News releases an article with research showing that one of her ancestors served as a U.S. soldier in a unit at a time which it helped round up Cherokee Indians in Tennessee for removal to Oklahoma on the “Trail of Tears,” and later fought against Florida’s Seminole Indians during the Second Seminole War. (8)
2012 May: Boston-based radio talk show host Howie Carr reports that at least two of Warren’s Pow Wow Chow recipes were plagiarized word for word from a translation of French Chef Pierre Franey’s recipes published in 1979 by the New York Times News Service. Carr reports that a third recipe appears to be a direct copy of a recipe in a 1959 Better Homes and Gardens magazine. (9)
2012 May: A group called “Cherokees Demand Truth from Elizabeth Warren” launch a website calling Warren’s claims to Native American ancestry “harmful and offensive to us.” (10)
2012 May 31: The Warren campaign releases statement from the candidate stating that she had “let people know about my Native American heritage in a national directory of law school personnel. At some point after I was hired by them, I also provided that information to the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard. My Native American heritage is part of who I am, I’m proud of it and I have been open about it.” Her statement seems to contradict previous statements saying she had been unaware that Harvard Law School had touted her as a Native American employee. (11)
2012 June 2: A Western New England University poll concludes that the controversy surrounding Warren’s alleged Native American ancestry is not an important issue to voters. (11)
2012 November 6: Warren beats Scott Brown in what was one of the most expensive Senate races in the country. (12)
2014 August 11: Donald Trump publicly refers to Sen. Warren as “Pocahontas” for the first known time in a retweet that states: “And the answer ISN’T Hillary Clinton or Pocahontas Warren for $300…” Since then Trump has publicly referred to Sen. Warren as “Pocahontas” more than 26 times in Tweets and in public speaking engagements. (13)
2017 November 27: Pres. Trump refers to Sen. Warren as “Pocahontas” with a non sequitur during his speech at a White House ceremony honoring Navajo code talkers, World War II veterans who helped U.S. forces confuse the Japanese. (14)
2017 November 27: Sen. Warren derides Pres. Trump for using “Pocahontas” as a “racial slur,” against her, vowing that it will not “shut her up.” (15)
27 November 27: While the president of the Navajo Nation agrees with Sen. Warren that Pres. Trump’s use of “Pocahontas” against her constitutes an ethnic slur, the White House disagrees, and posits that Sen. Warren’s claims of Native American heritage represents the real insult to Native Americans. (16)
2018 February 14: In a surprise appearance before the National Congress of American Indians, Sen. Elizabeth Warren lambastes Pres. Donald Trump for disrespecting American Indians by using “Pocahontas” as a nickname for the Senator. During her speech, the Senator also restates her claim of Native American ancestry. (5)
Sen. Elizabeth Warren had an opportunity this week to set things right, to admit that her claims of Native American ancestry might be, well, let’s just say, a bit exaggerated. Quite a bit, really.
Instead, the Senator decided to double down and re-insist that she is part Native American, despite the complete lack of any evidence to support her claim. There is no paper trail to support this claim, professional genealogists have not been able to link any Native Americans to her family tree, she has ignored requests to conduct genetic testing, and some of her cousins say they never heard any of their relatives speak of Native American heritage. (17)
Should the Senator decide to run for U.S. President in 2020 her dogged determination to hold fast to what appears to be a spurious claim, along with the still unresolved debate over how much she used this claim to boost her academic career, is going to hound her. Though perhaps not as much as Conservatives might like.
Take her Senate run against incumbent Sen. Scott Brown. One would think that the brouhaha over her obviously exaggerated claims would have derailed her campaign. But then again, we’re talking about ultra-liberal Massachusetts. Take it to the national stage and I’m pretty sure that we will see a similar phenomenon—Conservatives will hammer her relentlessly over the issue, but Liberals will ignore the indiscretion as the price to pay to get a Liberal in office. Liberals certainly didn’t let 30,000 missing emails and other alleged malfeasance by Hillary Clinton sways their support for her candidacy. So, it’s not likely that a little issue over Sen. Warren’s false bloodline claims, and how she may have used them for personal gain, is going to cause Democratic voters to reject her.
As for the use of “Pocahontas” to insult to Sen. Warren, well, that needs to stop. It’s an insult to the Powhatan queen, much like Sen. Warren’s claims of Native American ancestry are an insult to all Native American tribes. Pres. Trump, and others who feel the need to cast dispersions on Sen. Warren and her false claims of Native American ancestry, should instead refer to her as “Fauxahontas,” or “Lieawatha.”
Helping educate our members understand the bigger picture.
According to the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), the Federal Government does not identify someone as American Indian unless he or she has status with one of the 566 officially recognized tribes. While genetic blood testing may confirm Native American heritage links, tribal recognition is still required to establish recognition by the U.S. BIA. (18)
In General, most tribes rely on genealogical proof to confirm tribal status. (19)
Those that do accept genetic testing for proof of ancestry generally require at least a 25 percent match. (19)
Many people, such as Johnny Cash, Johnny Depp, Miley Cyrus and Bill Clinton, have claimed Cherokee Descent. In fact, most White Americans who claim Indian heritage say that they’re from the Cherokee tribe. (20)
The Cherokee tribe has the best documented family lineage of any tribe. (20)
Pocahontas was the daughter of an Algonquian Indian Chief Powhatan, who resided in tidewater Virginia and interacted with the English settlers of the Jamestown colony.
Historical legend claims that she was instrumental in saving the life of one of Jamestown’s founders, John Smith.
This legend was originally propagated by Smith himself, who wrote about the “beautiful” Indian queen and claimed that she rescued him, though his account has been disputed by historians. (21)
Pocahontas married English settler John Rolfe. They had one son, Thomas Rolfe, and approximately 100,000 Americans can claim ancestry from this line. (22)
To learn more about your possible Native American ancestry start here:
To express your displeasure over Sen Warren’s claims of Native American ancestry contact her Senate office:
Story inspired by: Seeing the story on Fox News, combined with my ongoing disdain for the Senator’s false ancestry claims, and, for what I would consider equally egregious, plagiarism (Pow Wow Chow!).
Point: Elizabeth Warren Should fess up!
CounterPoint: Elizabeth Warren did not lie about her ancestry.