Elizabeth Warren’s ≤1.6% Native American Ancestry Falls Short of Minority Status Standards

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JULY 25: Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) stands on stage prior to the star
Alex Wong/Getty Images

In the three decades since she first made her career-advancing claim of minority status as a Native American (Cherokee, specifically), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has offered nothing more than “family lore” to support that claim.

On Monday, in a carefully choreographed media blitz, Sen. Warren offered something new — a report from Dr. Carlos Bustamante of Stanford University on DNA genotypes provided by a DNA testing lab that purports to show she has between 0.1 percent and 1.6 percent Native American ancestry.

Setting aside for a moment the credibility of Dr. Bustamante’s report as genetic evidence of Warren’s ancestry, it is worth noting that the most generous interpretation of Bustamante’s report — that Warren could have as much as 1.6 percent Native American ancestry — falls far short of the evidentiary standard Warren would have had to meet. When she claimed in 1985’s Association of American Law Schools Directory that she was a minority or when she “checked the box” in 1989 and told her superiors at the University of Pennsylvania that she was Native American and not a Caucasian, she fell short of minority status standards.

Those claims — unsupported by even the most generous interpretation of Bustamante’s report — were part of the academic package considered by the Harvard Committee on Appointments when they decided to recommend her to the Dean of Harvard Law School and the Harvard Law School faculty for consideration for an offer of a tenured professorship in 1993.

At the 1.6 percent level of Native American ancestry, which the Bustamante report purports is the highest possible level Warren could have, she still falls far short of the six percent ancestry that a handful of Native American tribes require as the minimum for tribal membership and well short of the 12 percent to 50 percent standard required by most Native American tribes for membership consideration.

The Cherokee Nation, which has no specific DNA standard but relies instead upon documented evidence — of which Warren has still offered none — “issued a statement Monday declaring Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-MA) DNA test results ‘inappropriate’ and a ‘mockery,’” Breitbart News reported:

The Cherokee Nation is having none of it. In a blistering statement, Cherokee Nation Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin, Jr. writes, “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.” …

Hoskin continues: “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.”

The Nation is especially angry over Warren using an “inappropriate” DNA test to “claim any connection to the Cherokee Nation or any tribal nation.”

Doing so is “inappropriate and wrong,” he writes adding, “It makes a mockery out of DNA tests and its legitimate uses while also dishonoring legitimate tribal governments and their citizens, who ancestors are well documented and whose heritage is prove.”

Hoskin closes with, “Senator Warren is undermining tribal interests with her continued claims of tribal heritage.”

Just two weeks ago, Breitbart News reported that Warren had “launched a media aided reputation-revision effort to ‘re-frame’ her false claims of Native American ancestry,” as part of a very public reversal of her promise this year that she would not run for president in 2020:

Warren’s spin is that (a.) her claims of Native American ancestry are not false because they are “family lore,” and (b.) she did not use those false claims to advance her professional career in the 1980s and 1990s.”

Neither spin is accurate.

As Breitbart News has documented extensively since 2012, Warren first made her false claims of Native American ancestry in 1984, “when she described herself as ‘Elizabeth Warren, Cherokee’ in several recipes, two of which — ‘Cold Omelets with Crab Meat and ‘Crab with Tomato Mayonnaise Dressing‘ — were apparently plagiarized from a 1979 article ‘written by Pierre Franey of the New York Times News Service,’ which she contributed to the cookbook, Pow Wow Chow: A Collection of Recipes from Families of the Five Civilized Tribes: Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek & Seminole.”

She repeated her false claim of Native American ancestry professionally in 1986, as Breitbart News reported, when she claimed in the Association of American Law Schools directory of law school professors that she had minority status. She continued to make that claim annually in that directory until 1995.

Warren was a professor at the University of Texas Law School at the time. One year later, in 1987, she was hired as a professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School.

Two years later, in 1989, “she authorize[d] the university to change her personnel designation from white to Native American, the records show,” the Boston Globe reported.

Warren’s false assertion of Native American ancestry was almost certainly included in the comprehensive application package considered by Harvard Law School when it offered, and she accepted, a one-year position as a visiting professor in the 1992-1993 academic year. The school considered her for a full-time tenured position, a position she was offered in February 1993 after the full Harvard Law School faculty discussed and accepted the recommendation of the school’s Appointments Committee to make such an offer, but Warren declined in 1993 and subsequently accepted in 1995, Breitbart News reported.

Breitbart News posed five specific questions to Dr. Bustamante about his report Monday, to which he did not respond because he was away from his email and traveling, an auto response stated.

Here are those five questions:

You say your report was based on genetic data provided to you in the form of DNA genotypes from a DNA testing laboratory.

1. What steps did you undertake to confirm that there was an unbreakable chain of custody in the DNA sample from the test subject, later revealed to be Sen. Elizabeth Warren, to the DNA testing laboratory and then on to the DNA genotypes provided to you?

2. Is there a specific reason that your October 10 report does not carry the logo of either Stanford University or your private company CDB Consulting LTD?

3. Your analysis has been criticized for not including Native American reference sequences from inside the United States in your analysis. Specifically, you state “For Native American references, we used samples within the 1000 Genomes project of Native American ancestry; these samples come from Mexico, Peru, and Colombia. (It is not possible to use Native American reference sequences from inside the United States, since Native American groups within the US have not chosen to participate in recent population genetics studies.)”

Is it safe to say then, that your analysis does NOT confirm that has a Native American ancestor from inside the United States, but that it DOES conclude she has an ancestor from Mexico, Peru, or Columbia?

4. Were you compensated to prepare this report?

5. If so, by whom, and how much?

With no new documentary evidence to support her claim of Native American ancestry and the release of a report on genetic data that offers a “best case” that fails to justify her career-advancing claims of Native American minority status and has a number of significant unanswered questions, Sen. Warren’s hoped-for media victory lap has turned into a DNA disaster for the would-be Democratic presidential candidate.


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