Native American / Cherokee Criticism of Elizabeth Warren

In response to revelations about Elizabeth Warren claiming to be Cherokee, hundreds of Cherokees formed a new group to challenge Warren.[1]

The group created a blog, Cherokees Demand Truth from Elizabeth Warren[2], and corresponding Facebook page[3]:

Cherokees Demand Truth - Elizabeth Warren banner

Mission Statement
Cherokees Demand Truth from Elizabeth Warren is a group of authentic Cherokees and descendants devoted to sharing the truth about our history. Our mission is to help people understand what a real Cherokee is and to show why Elizabeth Warren claiming to be Cherokee without proof is harmful and offensive to us.

The group was non-political[4]:

We are a group of concerned enrolled Cherokees and descendants from the three federally recognized Cherokee tribes; the Cherokee Nation, the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians, and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians; who demand that Elizabeth Warren tell the truth about her “Cherokee” ancestry and identity. Our group, 149 members strong and growing each day, is in it’s infancy so we are, at this time, an informal one with no specific organizational structure. Spokespeople for the group are Twila Barnes and David Cornsilk….

This is NOT a political group, but instead, a group that demands Elizabeth Warren and others like her understand OUR history belongs to us and no one has the right to try to rewrite it or make up fictitious stories so they can fit in it or take advantage of it. Only those who meet the requirements under Cherokee law should claim to be Cherokee. We hope to help educate the public on what is and is not true about our history and also why the false claims like Elizabeth Warren is making are harmful to the Cherokee people.

The first blog post was Elizabeth Warren – The Cherokees Will Not Be Silenced[5]:

Many wonder why we Cherokees are so insistent on Elizabeth Warren coming clean about her false claims of Cherokee ancestry. This is not a political issue to us. We don’t care if Elizabeth Warren is a Democrat, Republican, or an Independent. We do care, though, if she goes around claiming to be Cherokee and has tried to benefit from that claim….

Many members of these fraudulent groups base their claim of Cherokee ancestry on the same thing Ms. Warren bases hers on…family lore…. Like Warren and her contributions to the Pow Wow Chow cookbook, those fake Indians bastardized our traditions by doing things that were not representative of true Cherokee culture…. Like Warren in her “checking the box” to further her career, these people did the exact same thing, “checked the box”, in order to try to benefit from it.

We have researched Ms. Warren’s ancestry in the line she claims to be Cherokee through, as well as researched the collateral lines connected to that family. There is absolutely no indication of her having anything other than Caucasian ancestors…. Ms. Warren’s ancestors were not Cherokees and neither is she. We, as Cherokees, cannot allow Ms. Warren to continue on with her false claims…..

It is time for Ms. Warren to come clean and tell the truth. Until she does, we will not be silenced.

The group produced a video:

Other Native Americans offered video testimonials: “I’m A Proud Native American, And Elizabeth Warren Does Not Represent Me”[6] and there was widespread criticism of Warren’s claims.[7]

Suzan Shown Harjo, a former executive director of the National Congress of American Indians, expressed outrage[8]:

“If you believe you are these things then that’s fine and dandy, but that doesn’t give you the right to claim yourself as Native American,” said Harjo, who said Warren might have taken a job another Native American could have received.

A Native American Harvard alumna and lifelong Democrat also accused Elizabeth Warren of “ethnic fraud”[9] in an article at Indian Country Media Network[10] (emphasis added):

As an enrolled member of the Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma, 1981 alumna of the Harvard  Graduate School of Education, veteran scholastic administrator, and lifelong  Democrat, I am profoundly disturbed by the emergence of recent details  concerning Harvard and one of its law school’s senior faculty members,  Massachusetts senate candidate Elizabeth Warren. Over the course of the past  month, facts have come to attention that leave little doubt that the HLS  bureaucracy and Professor Warren perpetrated nothing less than ethnic fraud….

I urge fellow Native alumni of Harvard, as well as all American Indians  presently associated with any of the University’s schools, to denounce the  conduct of HLS and Professor Warren.

Ultimately, however, whether the Professor formally obtained her employment  in Cambridge thanks to affirmative action is immaterial. An unethical endeavor does not have to succeed in its objectives in order to warrant objection.  Similarly, qualification does not automatically legitimize malfeasance.

Warren has predicated her bid for elected office on an advocacy for the  disenfranchised, the proverbial “99 percent.” Consequently, her conduct  vis-à-vis a historically marginalized Native community is fundamentally  pertinent to the ideological consistency of her campaign platform….

A not-insignificant number of her defenders have attempted to double down by  maintaining that most Oklahomans likely have at least a minute amount of Indian  DNA. What a poetic illustration of the legacy of colonialism: first, the  European entitlement to Native territories, and, now, white entitlement to  Native cultural identity sans the conditions that confer meaning on that  identity….

Perhaps, in the end, we should appreciate Professor Warren for revealing institutionalized deficiencies at our alma mater that may have otherwise  remained unexamined. However, we should nevertheless hold her accountable for  the damage she has wrought—by either crassly capitalizing on the plight of the  American Indian or indulging in the fetishization of a frequently caricaturized  minority group….

Warren also was criticized for refusing to meet with a group of Cherokee women who traveled to Boston in June 2012 to present Warren with genealogical evidence that Warren was not Cherokee, and a separate group of Native American Democrats, including the grandson of Geronimo, who wanted to meet with Warren at the Democratic National Convention at which Warren was a keynote speaker.

Former Colorado Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, a Native American, questioned Warren’s conduct[11]:

It would not have been “appropriate” for Massachusetts Senate hopeful Elizabeth Warren to claim to be an American Indian minority if she did so solely to get a professional advantage, says a former U.S. senator who was once the only Native American in Congress.

“I think if she used it just to get some kind of advantage — whatever it was — like a job application or something, then that’s probably not appropriate,” former Colorado Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell told The Daily Caller in an interview on Tuesday.

“If you have nothing to do with Indians at all — never — except to try to get some unfair advantage, then I think there’s an ethical question in that,” Campbell said. “I don’t know if Mrs. Warren did that or not. Maybe not.”

Cherokees from North Carolina also appeared in a television ad by the Massachusetts Republican Party:

References

  1. ^ William A. Jacobson, Hundreds of Cherokees form new group to challenge Elizabeth WarrenLegal Insurrection, May 30, 2012
  2. ^ Cherokees Demand Truth, Cherokees Demand Truth from Elizabeth WarrenCherokees Demand Truth, 2012
  3. ^ Facebook Group, Cherokees Demand Truth From Elizabeth WarrenCherokees Demand Truth Facebook, 2012
  4. ^ Cherokees Demand Truth, Cherokees Demand Truth from Elizabeth Warren - AboutCherokees Demand Truth, May 30, 2012
  5. ^ Cherokees Demand Truth, Elizabeth Warren – The Cherokees Will Not Be SilencedCherokees Demand Truth, May 30, 2012
  6. ^ William A. Jacobson, New video testimonial series: “I’m A Proud Native American, And Elizabeth Warren Does Not Represent Me”Legal Insurrection, Aug. 1, 2012
  7. ^ Ryan Teague Beckwith, Elizabeth Warren: What Native Americans have said about controversyThe Denver Post, Sept. 5, 2012
  8. ^ Boston Herald, Elizabeth Warren’s campaign: She’s 1/32nd CherokeeThe Boston Herald, Oct. 4, 2012
  9. ^ William A. Jacobson, Native American Harvard alumna and lifelong Dem accuses Elizabeth Warren of “ethnic fraud”Legal Insurrection, June 11, 2012
  10. ^ Margo (Kickingbird) DeLaune & Cole R. DeLaune, We Should Denounce the Conduct of Harvard and Elizabeth WarrenIndian Country Today Media Network, June 11, 2012
  11. ^ Alex Pappas, Former Native American senator reacts to Elizabeth Warren’s minority claimThe Daily Caller, May 1, 2012
Last Updated: February 18th, 2013