Yesterday when a reporter at a Brighton, Massachusetts event asked Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) to respond to my report from earlier in the day that her great-great-great grandfather had served in the Tennessee Militia that rounded up the Cherokees in preparation for the Trail of Tears, Ms. Warren refused to answer the question.
She did not deny the facts that I established but immediately changed the subject, claiming that the story was simply “politics as usual.” “I think what this is about is Scott Brown trying to change the subject,” the Boston Herald reports she said. “He just wants to find a way to talk about something else, and I think it’s wrong. I think this is why people are turned off on Washington politics.”
To the contrary, my story addresses a question fundamental to every political campaign in the country today: the credibility and integrity of the candidate. It was developed independent of any political campaign and has been confirmed by numerous reputable genealogical sources, including Paul Reed, who the Boston Herald describes as “a Utah genealogist who is a fellow at the American Genealogical Society.”
Reed, the Herald continues, “said he found primary documentation that shows Warren’s great-great-great grandfather Jonathan Crawford served in a Tennessee militia unit that rounded up Cherokees before they were force-marched to Oklahoma in the infamous Trail of Tears.”
“Jonathan H. Crawford did serve in the Indian wars,” said Reed. “He is listed as serving in the company that rounded up Cherokees.”
In addition to Mr. Reed, several amateur genealogists have either contacted me directly or posted comments on Breitbart News stories confirming the accuracy of my claim.
It is Ms. Warren who first introduced her ancestry into her professional career and then her campaign for the United States Senate.
For twenty-five years since 1986, and without a shred of credible evidence, she has claimed to have Native American ancestry. She’s made this claim, apparently, to three separate employers–the University of Texas Law School, the University of Pennsylvania Law School, and Harvard Law School. None apparently asked her for proof, nor did she offer any.
When she started her campaign for the United States Senate, she made the claim again, still offering no proof.
Based on all the evidence that has been presented to date, I am confident in stating that Ms. Warren has absolutely no Native American ancestry. Zero.
As of this moment, the burden of proof rests with her. Where is it? Show us; let the genealogical community evaluate it. There will be little controversy in determining its authenticity. Either it’s credible or it’s not. If Ms. Warren offers credible evidence of her claimed Native American ancestry, I will not hesitate to proclaim it to be so.
Let’s remember how this entire controversy began and why it is that I discovered that her great-great-great grandmother O.C. Sarah Smith Crawford was white, not Cherokee, and that her great-great-great grandfather, Jonathan Crawford, served in the Tennessee Militia that in 1836 rounded up Cherokees for the Trail of Tears.
Two weeks ago, Ms. Warren’s campaign staff offered great-great-great grandmother O.C. Sarah Smith Crawford up as the only one of her thirty-two great-great-great grandparents with Cherokee heritage. To support this claim they pointed to a single piece of evidence. In 1894, more than two decades after her death, O.C. Sarah Smith Crawford’s youngest son, William J. Crawford, apparently claimed on a marriage license application in Oklahoma Territory that his mother was Cherokee.
There it was, said her campaign–proof that Ms. Warren is 1/32 Native American. This was the first time, to my knowledge, that Ms. Warren or anyone associated with her ever tied a specific percentage to her claim of Native American heritage.
But this claim was so tenuous, it made me curious. I began to dig deeper, using basic genealogical techniques which have since been quickly applied to this issue by a host of other genealogists. As I and others soon established, the evidence of Cherokee ancestry lacks credibility, is supported by no other documentation anywhere, and is therefore disallowed from serious consideration as proof.
But my research led me to O.C. Sarah Smith Crawford’s husband, Jonathan Crawford. It was Ms. Warren’s campaign staff, then, that led me to discover her Tennessee Militia great-great-great grandfather who participated in rounding up Cherokees.
What will Ms. Warren and her campaign do now, in light of these unrefuted findings? Unfortunately, it appears they are staying the course–the same course that unintentionally hoisted her on her own petard.
Here is my best advice to Ms. Warren: fess up. Tell the Truth. I’ll even write the statement she can use.
“Growing up, my parents and grandparents told me that I had Native American ancestry. I believed them, without seeking to verify the truth of the matter. Many years ago, I made a mistake by offering that same claim to my employers without verifying its truth. I’ve continued to make this claim publicly until now, again without verifying its truth. Today, I am going to set the record straight. I have been unable to verify what my family told me to be true. I have no Native American ancestry, and I apologize to my former employers and to the people of Massachusetts for making this claim for so many years without undertaking the proper due diligence to verify it.”
This issue isn’t going away until Ms. Warren either makes this statement or offers verifiable proof of her claim. Fessing up is the best option for a campaign that is presently on life support. I can with certainty say that dozens of genealogists are going to take a very close look at any new evidence offered up by the Warren campaign. Based on the results of their previous efforts to offer “corroborating evidence,” who knows where that may lead?
Michael Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) is a Breitbart News contributor, Editor of Broadside Books’ Voices of the Tea Party e-book series, and author of Covenant of Liberty: The Ideological Origins of the Tea Party Movement.