Elizabeth Warren Falsely Claimed Native American Ancestry But Objects When President Trump Calls Her ‘Pocahontas’

Elizabeth Warren, Niki Tsongas, Daniel Rivera
AP Photo/Elise Amendola

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) complained on Monday when President Trump referred to her as “Pocahontas,” despite her long history of falsely claiming to have Native American ancestry.

“It is deeply unfortunate that the President of the United States cannot even make it through a ceremony honoring these heroes without having to throw out a racial slur,” Warren told MSNBC on Monday.

“In an Oval Office event honoring World War II Navajo code talkers on Monday, Trump issued a joke at Warren’s expense,” Breitbart News reported.

“We have a representative in Congress who they say was here a long time ago. They call her ‘Pocahontas’,” the president said.

Monday afternoon, a reporter asked White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders about Trump’s use of “Pocahontas” to describe Warren, and Sanders hit back at Warren:

Sanders is correct in her assertion, as Breitbart News has documented extensively over the past five years, since the issue first became public in 2012.

In May 2012, Breitbart News reported there is zero credible evidence–either documentary or genetic–that supports Warren’s claim of Native American ancestry. Warren has offered no evidence in the subsequent five years.

Trump’s reference to Warren as “Pocahontas” came on the same day her allies at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau–an independent agency of questionable constitutionality established in the 2010 Dodd-Frank bill, largely on the basis of academic research conducted by Warren herself–orchestrated a power grab in an attempt to thwart his appointment of OMB director Mick Mulvaney as acting director of an agency described by many conservatives as “out-of-control.”

(Late Tuesday, a federal judge threw out that attempted power grab, dismissing deputy director Leandra English’s request for a temporary restraining order preventing President Trump from naming Mulvaney acting director of the agency.)

George Mason University professor of economics Todd Zywicki, who President Trump is considering as a potential permanent director of the CFPB to replace recently resigned Richard Cordray, a long-time Warren ally, has built an impressive academic record that focuses on the inaccuracy and deception of Warren’s academic research that led to the establishment of the agency.

“The Obama administration has promised that the Federal Reserve’s new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will be independent from politics, a model of regulatory expertise grounded in sound data and economics. Naming Harvard Law Prof. Elizabeth Warren as de facto agency head undermines both goals,” Zywicki wrote in a September 2010 op-ed in the Wall Street Journal.

“Questions about the validity of Warren’s scholarly findings have haunted her since early in her career,” Zywicki told Breitbart News in 2012, adding:

Reviewing her first major scholarly work, a co-authored book, noted bankruptcy professor Philip Schuchman (now deceased) stated bluntly, “In my opinion, the authors have engaged in repeated instances of scientific misconduct.” Similar questions ghave continued to nag her scholarship throughout her career, especially her usage and handling of empirical data and the conclusions she draws from it.

For example, her high-profile claim that half or more of personal bankruptcies attributable to medical problems has come in for especially withering criticism. Her first major academic study on the topic claimed that almost half of personal bankruptcies were attributable to medical problems and that the number of bankruptcies annually attributable to medical issues had increased 23-fold in 20 years.

But as I wrote in critiquing that study, “Notwithstanding the long consensus that relatively few bankruptcies are caused by health problems and health costs, a recent study concludes that approximately half of consumer bankruptcies are caused by medical problems, a twenty-three-fold increase over a twenty-year period. Both conclusions are fundamentally unsupportable, however, and rest primarily on the way in which the researchers define and count what constitutes a medical bankruptcy rather than an actual increase in the number of bankruptcies caused by medical problems.”

Trump’s “Pocahontas” reference on Monday focuses national attention on Warren’s track record lacking credibility, both in her academic research and her claims of Native American ancestry.

To bolster those Native American ancestry claims, Warren points only to “family lore” and her “high cheek bones.” She has consistently refused to take a DNA test.

More than five years after Warren’s claims of Native American ancestry were completely disproven, she continues to stick with the defense that it must be true because her family members told her so.

“Just to be clear: I learned about my family’s heritage the same way everyone else does – from my parents and grandparents. I never asked for and never got any benefit from it,” Warren said in a fundraising email sent out late Monday.

But professional genealogists offer a more honest, evidence-based approach to researching family history.

In Professional Genealogy: A Manual for Researchers, Writers, Editors, Lecturers, and Librarians, author Elizabeth Shown Mills notes that family history research depends on two key factors (1)”Credibility: whether a source’s information is likely to reflect past reality,” and (2) “Relevance: whether information relates to the person or question of immediate concern.”

“Original records, especially those made near the time of the matter at issue, are our first choice for credibility,” Mills adds.

Mills continues:

Family traditions and anecdotal accounts present us with dilemmas and opportunities. We know how easily facts become confused and details embroidered when passed through the generations; our clients and our families may not have that perspective yet. We can help others understand that family stories have value but must be tempered with caution and researched until evidence justifies accepting or discarding them. By way of example…

Illustrious ancestors. More difficult to handle, perhaps, is the issue of including “research” by earlier members that set forth illustrious ancestors with no valid documentation. We need tact to help our families realize the inappropriateness of including unsubstantiated lineages. An otherwise credible book can be vastly diminished by flimsy or disproved claims. (emphasis added)

Born in 1949, Warren first made her false claim of Native American ancestry publicly at the age of 35 in 1984, when she submitted several recipes to Pow Wow Chow: A Collection of Recipes from Families of the Five Civilized Tribes: Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek & Seminole, a cookbook compiled by her cousin, Mrs. James P. Rowsey. In that cookbook, Warren described herself as “Elizabeth Warren – Cherokee.”

The recipes Warren submitted included “Cold Omelets with Crab Meat,” and “Crab with Tomato Mayonnaise Dressing .” According to Boston talk radio king Howie Carr’s research, those recipes appear to have been plagiarized:

The two recipes, “Cold Omelets with Crab Meat” and “Crab with Tomato Mayonnaise Dressing,” appear in an article titled “Cold Omelets with Crab Meat,” written by Pierre Franey of the New York Times News Service that was published in the August 22, 1979 edition of the Virgin Islands Daily News, a copy of which can be seen here.

Ms. Warren’s 1984 recipe for Crab with Tomato Mayonnaise Dressing is a word-for-word copy of Mr. Franey’s 1979 recipe.

In 1973, when she applied to Rutgers University Law School at the age of 24, she did not claim minority status, but in 1985, while still on the faculty of the University of Texas Law School, Warren first asserted her false claim of minority ancestry professionally in that year’s Association of American Law Schools (AALS) faculty directory. She would continue to make that claim for the next dozen years, until the 1997 AALS faculty directory.

David Bernstein summed up Warren’s own claims that she was a minority, writing at the Volokh Conspiracy in 2012:

The old AALS Directory of Faculty guides are online (through academic libraries) at Hein Online. The directories starting listing minority faculty in an appendix in 1986. There’s Elizabeth Warren, listed as a professor at Texas. I spot-checked three additional directories from when she was a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, including 1995-96, the year Harvard offered her a position. Elizabeth Warren, Elizabeth Warren, Elizabeth Warren.

So, we know one thing with almost 100% certainty: Elizabeth Warren identified herself as a minority law professor. We know something else with 90%+ certainty: (at least some) folks at Harvard were almost certainly aware that she identified as a minority law professor, though they may not have known which ethnic group she claimed to be belong to, and it may not have played any role in her hiring.

But it gets even more interesting: once Warren joined the Harvard faculty, she dropped off the list of minority law faculty. Now that’s passing strange. When the AALS directory form came around before Warren arrived at Harvard, she was proud enough of her Native American ancestry to ask that she be listed among the minority law professors. (Or, in the unlikely even that she just allowed law school administrators to fill out the forms for her without reviewing them, they were aware that she claimed such ancestry, and she didn’t object when she was listed.) Once she arrived at Harvard, however, she no longer chose to be listed as a minority law professor.


In 1993, the year Warren was a visiting professor at Harvard Law School, a Harvard affiliated publication referred to her as “a woman of color,” as Breitbart News reported:

[I]n the spring of 1993, three years before Harvard Law School first publicly stated she was “a woman of color,” Elizabeth Warren likely made that claim while teaching at Harvard, and at approximately the same time the faculty was considering her for a tenured position. Warren, now running for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate in Massachusetts, told Politico as recently as May 15 that she had “no idea” why a Harvard Law School spokesman called her a “woman of color” in a 1996 Harvard Crimson article and a 1997 Fordham Law Review article. However, a 1993 issue of the Harvard Women’s Law Journal suggests that she knew very well indeed.

An article, “Women of Color in Legal Academia: A Biographic and Bibliographic Guide,” which was published by the Harvard Women’s Law Journal (since renamed the Harvard Journal of Law and Gender) in its Spring 1993 edition (Volume 16), lists Warren as one of approximately 250 “women of color” in legal academia.

Politico reported that “a 1997 Fordham Law Review piece described [Warren] as Harvard Law School’s ‘first woman of color,’ based, according to the notes at the bottom of the story, on a “telephone interview with Michael Chmura, News Director, Harvard Law (Aug. 6, 1996).”

Senator Warren used her false claim of Native American ancestry to advance her professional career and help land a permanent, tenure track job at Harvard Law School in 1995. For several years, the school went along with the charade, incorrectly including Warren as a “minority” in its annual report to the EEOC.

There is absolutely no credible evidence to support Warren’s claim of Native American ancestry, but there is solid documentary evidence that shows she is a direct descendant of a member of the Tennessee Militia that rounded up the Cherokee for the Trail of Tears in the 1830s, as Breitbart News reported in May 2012:

For over a quarter of a century, Elizabeth Warren has described herself as a Native American. When recently asked to provide evidence of her ancestry, she pointed to an unsubstantiated [and thoroughly debunked] claim on an “1894 Oklahoma Territory marriage license application” by her great-great grand uncle William J. Crawford that his mother, O.C. Sarah Smith Crawford, Ms. Warren’s great-great-great grandmother, was a Cherokee.

It is on this flimsy “word of mouth” assertion that O.C. Sarah Smith Crawford was a Cherokee that Warren first based her “1/32 Cherokee” claim. (We all have 32 great-great-great grandparents, so the heritage of one of those great-great-great grandparents constitutes 1/32 of our own heritage.)

Oklahoma in 1894 had no such document as a marriage license application. Breitbart News obtained and reviewed the actual 1894 marriage licence of O.C. Sarah Smith Crawford’s son, William J. Crawford, and confirmed that document includes no claim whatsoever of Cherokee ancestry.

But O.C. Sarah Smith Crawford’s husband Jonathan Crawford, Elizabeth Warren’s great-great-great grandfather, was a member of the Tennessee Militia that rounded up the Cherokees in the 1830s, as Breitbart News reported in May 2012:

O.C. Sarah Smith Crawford had no Cherokee heritage, was listed as “white” in the Census of 1860, and was most likely half Swedish and half English, Scottish, or German, or some combination thereof. (Note, the actual 1894 marriage license makes no claim of Cherokee ancestry.)

But the most stunning discovery about the life of O.C. Sarah Smith Crawford is that her husband, Ms. Warren’s great-great-great grandfather, was apparently a member of the Tennessee Militia who rounded up Cherokees from their family homes in the Southeastern United States and herded them into government-built stockades in what was then called Ross’s Landing (now Chattanooga), Tennessee–the point of origin for the horrific Trail of Tears, which began in January, 1837.

It is time for Ms. Warren to publicly acknowledge the truth of her ancestry,” Breitbart News concluded more than five years ago.

Our call for Senator Warren to finally fess up and admit the truth about her own complete lack of Native American ancestry  is just as relevant in November 2017 as it was in May 2012: “It is time for her to admit that she has no Native American heritage that she can prove; and it is time for her to acknowledge instead, that she is likely a direct descendant of a Tennessee Militiaman who apparently rounded up the ancestors of those who truly have Cherokee heritage, the first step in their forced removal from the Southeastern United States to Oklahoma over the long and tragic Trail of Tears.”


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