News & Politics

Not the Onion: The DNC Includes Elizabeth Warren in Native American Caucus

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

On Tuesday, the Democratic National Convention (DNC) apparently included Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) in its Native American Caucus meeting. While Warren has apologized for claiming a Native American identity after her disastrous DNA test flop and President Donald Trump has repeatedly mocked her as “Pocahontas,” it seems the DNC decided it would be a good idea to highlight the controversy.

“I’m excited for the DNC Native American Caucus meeting today. Please join [Deb Haaland (D-N.M.)], [Sharice Davids (D-Kan.)], [Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass)], and me (and whole bunch of other good folks) today!” Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan (D-Minn.) tweeted on Tuesday. Flanagan is a member of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe.

“Grateful to be attending the DNC Native American Caucus meeting today as a Delegate from WA State to the [DNC],” tweeted Auburn City Council Member Chris Stearns, a member of the Navajo Nation. “A killer lineup including [Flanagan], [Rep. Haaland], [Rep. Davids], [Sen. Warren].”

Deb Haaland is a member of the Laguna Pueblo people, and Sharice Davids is a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin.

Elizabeth Warren is very much NOT a member of a Native American tribe or nation. She has repeatedly apologized for her false claim of Cherokee status. Last December, she admitted, “I shouldn’t have done it. I am not a person of color, I am not a citizen of a tribe and I have apologized for the confusion I have caused on tribal citizenship, tribal sovereignty, and for any harm that I have caused.” She has claimed that the false identity “never had anything to do with any job I ever got or any benefit.”

Americans might be forgiven for responding with skepticism.

In 1984, Warren submitted five recipes for the book Pow Wow Chow: A Collection of Recipes from Families of the Five Civilized Tribes: Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek and Seminole. Each recipe listed her as “Elizabeth Warren, Cherokee.” Radio host Howie Carr alleged that her recipes were forgeries.

She listed herself as “American Indian” on a registration form for the Texas State Bar in 1986. The Association of American Law Schools listed her as a minority law teacher from 1986 to 1994. During that time, she taught at the University of Texas, the University of Pennsylvania, and then Harvard University in 1995. In 1996, a Harvard Law School spokesman referred to her as a Native American.

Warren’s claim that her Native-American lie never got her a job seems rather suspect, but the statement that she never received any “benefit” from the lie is demonstrably false. Any proceeds from Pow Wow Chow arguably fall into that category.

When Warren had a DNA test to “prove” her Cherokee status, the Cherokee Nation condemned this insult to their tribe.

“A DNA test is useless to determine tribal citizenship,” Cherokee Nation Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. said in a statement. “Current DNA tests do not even distinguish whether a person’s ancestors were indigenous to North or South America.”

“Sovereign tribal nations set their own legal requirements for citizenship, and while DNA tests can be used to determine lineage, such as paternity to an individual, it is not evidence for tribal affiliation,” Hoskin explained. He also suggested that Warren’s DNA test belittled DNA tests in general.

“Using a DNA test to lay claim to any connection to the Cherokee Nation or any tribal nation, even vaguely, is inappropriate and wrong,” he added. “It makes a mockery out of DNA tests and its legitimate uses while also dishonoring legitimate tribal governments and their citizens, whose ancestors are well documented and whose heritage is proven. Senator Warren is undermining tribal interests with her continued claims of tribal heritage.”

Perhaps in an attempt to smooth over her relations with Native-American tribes, she later released a $10 billion plan to address America’s broken promises.

Warren seems to want to put this scandal behind her, but by taking part in the DNC’s Native American Caucus, she is dredging it up once again. Flanagan, Stearns, Haaland, and Davids belong in that caucus, but “Pocahontas” does not. Don’t take my word for it — she herself said, “I am not a person of color, I am not a citizen of a tribe.”

Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.

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