WASHINGTON — Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) told a Native American conference today that “you won’t find my family members on any rolls, and I’m not enrolled in a tribe,” as she addressed the “Pocohantas” label applied to her by the president and other foes.
In the 2012 election, then-Sen. Scott Brown (D-Mass.) accused his Dem challenger of wrongly claiming Native American heritage to get ahead; Warren countered that she’d heard family stories of Cherokee and Delaware heritage. Researchers weren’t able to conclude whether she had Native American heritage or not.
In an address to the National Congress of American Indians, Warren noted, “I’ve noticed that every time my name comes up, President Trump likes to talk about Pocahontas. So I figured, let’s talk about Pocahontas. Not Pocahontas, the fictional character most Americans know from the movies, but Pocahontas, the Native woman who really lived, and whose real story has been passed down to so many of you through the generations.”
After recounting the history, she added, “Indigenous people have been telling the story of Pocahontas — the real Pocahontas — for four centuries. A story of heroism. And bravery. And pain.”
“…Our country’s disrespect of Native people didn’t start with President Trump. It started long before President Washington ever took office. But now we have a president who can’t make it through a ceremony honoring Native American war heroes without reducing Native history, Native culture, Native people to the butt of a joke. The joke, I guess, is supposed to be on me.”
Trump’s use of “Pocahontas” included a dig at Warren during a November Oval Office ceremony with Navajo Code Talkers.
On her lack of family tribal enrollment, Warren told the conference, “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 my mother’s family was part Native American. And my daddy’s parents were bitterly opposed to their relationship,” she said, telling the story of their Oklahoma courtship. “…No one — not even the president of the United States — will ever take that part of me away.”
Warren vowed to fight for infrastructure improvements and investments in tribal lands and to battle “discrimination and neglect” against the Native American community, decrying a U.S. government that “robbed you of your land, suppressed your languages, put your children in boarding schools and gave your babies away for adoption.”
“It is deeply offensive that this president keeps a portrait of Andrew Jackson hanging in the Oval Office, honoring a man who did his best to wipe out Native people. But the kind of violence President Jackson and his allies perpetrated isn’t just an ugly chapter in a history book. Violence remains part of life today. The majority of violent crimes experienced by Native Americans are perpetrated by non-Natives, and more than half — half — of Native women have experienced sexual violence,” she said. “This must stop. And I promise I will fight to help write a different story.”