The saga of Elizabeth Warren demonstrates once again that the ugly new identity politics dominating the Left drives its own acolytes to radical dishonesty
Senator Elizabeth Warren – a woman I used to admire for her stance against corporate greed, before I realized just how radical she actually was, and who is currently attempting to position herself for a 2020 presidential campaign run – has long been pilloried in the conservative media (such of it as exists) and blogosphere as “Fauxahontas,” for her repeated portrayal of herself has having Cherokee blood: based, reportedly, on family oral history.
Now, I am an admirer of family oral histories as much as anyone, and more than some! But I am also aware of their limitations. Such accounts can be misremembered, misreported, change over time (remember the children’s game, “Telephone”…?), be “embellished” for a variety of reasons, or simply be in error. Now she has released a DNA test that may have done her more harm than good. As reported in the linked National Review article above,
“Irked at President Trump’s irreverence regarding her purported bloodline, Warren released the results of a DNA study done by Professor Carlos Bustamante of Stanford University. Those results showed that a Native American ancestor may have [emphasis added] existed in Warren’s family tree ‘in the range of 6–10 generations ago.’ This would make Warren somewhere between 1/64th Native American and 1/1024th Native American.”
Backlash has been predictable, and much of it has come from Native American sources. If the National Review is a conservative publication, the New York Times is not; a Times article published yesterday notes that “her announcement of the results angered many Native Americans, including the Cherokee Nation, the largest of the country’s three federally recognized Cherokee tribes,” and continues,
“DNA testing cannot show that Ms. Warren is Cherokee or any other tribe, the secretary of state of the Cherokee Nation, Chuck Hoskin Jr., said in a statement. Tribes set their own citizenship requirements, not to mention that DNA tests don’t distinguish among the numerous indigenous groups of North and South America. The test Ms. Warren took did not identify Cherokee ancestry specifically; it found that she most likely had at least one Native American ancestor six to 10 generations ago.”
The statement referred to above follows:
“A DNA test is useless to determine tribal citizenship. Current DNA tests do not even distinguish whether a person’s ancestors were indigenous to North or South America,” Cherokee Nation Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. said. “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. Using a DNA test to lay claim to any connection to the Cherokee Nation or any tribal nation, even vaguely, is inappropriate and wrong. 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.” [emphasis added]
There are dissenting voices, of course; but that sentiment seems to be pretty general.
USA Today, also far from a right-wing source, has an opinion piece by Rebecca Nagle, who identifies herself as “a registered Democrat, Cherokee Nation citizen and Native woman” and states,
“As Cherokee genealogists have researched, and I have repeatedly written about, Warren descends from a long line of well-documented white people. While Warren no longer identifies herself as Native American, she still publicly claims her family is “part” Cherokee. There is nothing innocent about a white woman claiming her ancestors experienced genocide and ethnic cleansing — an inescapable fact for Cherokee families — when they did not. Why is this so hard to understand?”
National Review is more blunt: “Without that ‘one drop’ [of Cherokee blood] she was just another privileged white woman.” And the list goes on:
VOX contributor Brandon Scott, who notes that he is the “editor of the Cherokee Phoenix, the nation’s oldest Native newspaper, founded in 1928,” writes that “Cherokee Nation citizens like me are used to people claiming our heritage. It’s exhausting,” and that “We are fed up with people like Elizabeth Warren claiming Native heritage.” He continues,
“Too often, Native Americans hear the words ‘I took a DNA test and…’ Too often, our heritage and racial identity has been co-opted by others for monetary gain, to claim some exoticism in their identity, or simply because someone wanted an excuse to wear a really pretty Halloween costume. But Native identity is not just about tracing a distant ancestor back to our tribe. It’s about cultural heritage, our shared experiences, and participating in our community…
“For Cherokee Nation citizens to be recognized as such, we must retrace our roots back to a family member who signed the Dawes Roll, essentially a turn-of-the-century census for Cherokees. This is considered a legal status as we are members of a sovereign nation within the borders of the United States. But Warren has never claimed actual citizenship in our tribe. She has infringed on this without evidence or understanding that it takes more than a DNA test to claim an identity.”
Simon Moya-Smith, an Oglala Lakota and Chicano journalist, author of the forthcoming book, “Your Spirit Animal is a Jackass,” (love it!), notes that
“her claim to having such heritage — versus a claim of actually being Native — feels sneaky to me. Where has she been on these many issues [attacks on Native rights and treaty violations during pipeline protests, police brutality in Indian Country, and sexual abuse of Native women, who are 2.5 times more likely to be sexually assaulted than women of any other group] that plague our communities?
“Although the results from her DNA test are new, her identity claims here aren’t. Why has she ignored us for so long? Why only now come around? This latest disclosure lets her save face without having responsibilities to the Native community she’s claiming to share heritage with. Furthermore, name me one nation or tribe that claims her. None do.
“It’s obvious to anyone with eyes in their sockets or brains in their heads: because Warren needs our stamp of approval and our vote as she contemplates a potential presidential run.”
And the aforementioned Rebecca Nagles also points out in an op-ed on ThinkProgress.org, that while President Trump’s use of “Pocahontas” in referring to Warren is offensive (I agree, as it defames an admirable Native historic figure; in my opinion, “Fauxahontas” is legitimate because it is an obvious satirical poke at Warren claiming to be something she is not, but I respect that others may disagree), “I am a Cherokee woman. Elizabeth Warren is not… As Native people, we are relegated to being invisible, while Warren is not,” and further states,
“She was not a hero to me when she failed to foster a haven of support for Native students within Harvard University’s alienating Ivy League culture. She is not a hero for spending years awkwardly avoiding Native leaders. She is not a hero because, despite claiming to be the only Native woman in the U.S. Senate, she has done nothing to advance our rights.
“She is not from us. She does not represent us. She is not Cherokee.”
Meanwhile, Business Insider reports that
“Kim TallBear, an associate professor for Native American studies at the University of Alberta, also criticized Warren for claiming Native American heritage and accused her of failing to back up her claim by meeting with other Cherokee Nation members.
“‘For Elizabeth Warren to center a Native American ancestry test as the next move in her fight with Republicans is to make yet another strike — even if unintended— against tribal sovereignty,’ TallBear said in a statement.
“‘She continues to defend her ancestry claims as important despite her historical record of refusing to meet with Cherokee Nation community members who challenge her claims,’ she added.”
There is even some evidence that a closer ancestor (great-great-grandfather) of Warren’s, Jonathon H. Crawford, was part of a volunteer Tennessee militia that rounded up Cherokees and herded them into stockades in preparation for the forced relocation known as the Trail of Tears. If so, that is (to say the least) a richly bitter irony.
While the details are hazy (there is as yet no confirmation that Crawford was personally involved in rounding up Cherokees), the article notes that
“Paul Reed, a Utah genealogist who is a fellow at the American Genealogical Society, said primary documentation supports these claims. ‘Jonathan H. Crawford did serve in the Indian wars,’ Reed told the Boston Herald. ‘He is listed as serving in the company that rounded up Cherokees.'”
So it appears there is more direct documentation that a Warren ancestor was an Indian-fighter than that one was an Indian; more evidence that he helped evict Cherokees from their homeland than that his wife was one – as Warren has asserted. As I say, darkly ironic, given her claims!
Even on the face of it, the genetic test in question is almost a joke – between 1/64th and 1/1204th ancestry…? I had traces – less than 1% – of South Asian in the initial results of my Ancestry DNA test, although they later backpedaled on that, and I am now listed as 100% European. Should I have claimed South Asian ancestry? Would I have been believed if I had, test or no test? These genetic tests, while useful and interesting, are not without the potential for error, particularly when you’re talking about such a small percentage, and so far back.
If Senator Warren thought the release of this DNA test was going to either lay the matter to rest, or win support for her in the Native community, she appears to have seriously miscalculated! And as the Washington Examiner, among other sources, points out, “The test retroactively raises serious questions about why Warren’s two former employers, Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania, listed her as ‘Native American’ on federal forms.”
Between this current self-inflicted wound on the part of Elizabeth Warren – which proves, if nothing else, that she can’t be counted upon to make wise or even rational decisions – and Christine Blasey Ford, who has quietly dropped out of sight (along with the $800,000+ she made on her GoFundMe account) after the FBI determined that her accusations of sexual assault at the hands of now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, when they were both teenagers, were without merit – it seems to me that the Democratic Party has a serious credibility problem. Not that they haven’t had one for some time, but these two incidents simply highlight the issue.
I hope that voters will take this into account, come November.
Update re: Christine Blasey Ford and Justice Brett Kavanaugh – Legal Insurrection reports that “Ford calls it quits on Kavanaugh,” and “wants no investigation, no prosecution, and no impeachment,” and notes that “Democrats want to keep going after Kavanaugh, once again disregarding her wishes”:
“To her credit, she appears to be done with the entire thing and expresses no interest in making the destruction of Supreme Court Justice Kavanaugh her life’s work. Indeed, Ford’s lawyers have publicly stated that she does not wish to see Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh impeached nor does she want further investigation into her claims.”
It remains to be seen whether the Democratic Party will honour those wishes. As the Legal Insurrection post also notes, “after all, everyone has to believe and support the ‘survivor’… until they say or do something rational, like give up on a lost battle.”