Elizabeth Warren to Meet with Tribal Leaders to Make Amends for False Native American Heritage Claims

Elizabeth Warren, Pocahontas.Painting of Pocahontas around the time of her wedding to John Rolfe. Three Lions:Getty Imagesjpg
Three Lions/Getty Images

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) is expected to meet with tribal leaders in Oklahoma this weekend as part of her effort to make amends for falsely claiming Native American heritage.

Warren, who falsely claimed Native American heritage for years without proof, will meet with representatives from the federally recognized tribes in the state in Tulsa, Oklahoma, according to the Washington Post. While they extended an invitation to all of the federally recognized tribes within the state, “about a dozen had indicated they will attend,” the Post reported.

The effort is reportedly part of Warren’s continued effort to make amends for her false claims of Native American heritage. The results of her DNA test, released in fall 2018, showed that she possessed between 1/64 and 1/1024 Native lineage. However, the results also indicated that her scintilla of native ancestry is likely linked to an ancestor in Colombia, Mexico, and Peru — not a tribe in the United States, making her claims of Cherokee heritage moot.

Per the Post:

The previously unreported meeting will focus on Warren’s agenda for Native Americans and is part of a broader effort to highlight issues important to them. Warren is also trying to blunt the criticism she has faced over the years for appropriating Native American culture by identifying as such, according to three people familiar with the meeting who also spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss it.

“It’ll be very heavy,” said NickyKay Michael, a member of the tribal council for the Delaware Tribe of Indians. “I don’t think they’ll be jumping up and down like they’d be for someone who was in their corner for a long time.”

Michael added that her tribal leaders will meet Saturday to determine whether to send a representative to the Warren event. The leadership, she said, is torn. “You don’t want to shoot yourself in the foot just because you’ve had a bad taste in your mouth for a long time,” Michael said.

While Warren apologized to Cherokee Nation for her false claims, some have been hesitant to accept it.

“I understand that she apologized for causing confusion on tribal sovereignty and tribal citizenship and the harm that has resulted,” Cherokee Nation spokeswoman Julie Hubbard said, following Warren’s apology.

“The chief and secretary of state appreciate that she has reaffirmed that she is not a Cherokee Nation citizen or a citizen of any tribal nation,” she added.

Others have remained skeptical.

“This still isn’t transparent,” Twila Barnes, a Cherokee genealogist, told the New York Times. “She needs to go public and say she fully takes responsibility and that the DNA test was ridiculous. There is still something about this that feels off.”

“We don’t know who the nominee will be, so we have to play the game,” Cherokee Nation citizen David Cornsilk said, according to the Post.

Choctaw Nation citizen Josh Riley, who is expected to attend the meeting, told the Post that he believes “folks are willing to give her a chance.”

“She does truly understand sovereignty and the tribes’ right to decide for themselves who are citizens,” he said:

Warren admitted during a town hall in New Hampshire this month that she “shouldn’t have” claimed Native American heritage.

“I shouldn’t have done it. I am not a person of color, I am not a citizen of a tribe,” Warren said. “And I have apologized for the confusion I have caused on tribal citizenship, tribal sovereignty, and for any harm I have caused”:

Still, Warren claimed that she learned about her fake heritage from her family and cited a Boston Globe investigation that determined she did not falsely claim Native American heritage for “any benefit.” Despite that determination, Harvard Law School News Director Mike Chmura bragged about Warren’s status as the “first woman of color” tenured at the school.

Warren famously told a reporter in 2012 that she had proof of her Native American heritage in her home.

“I have plenty of pictures. They’re not for you,” Warren told a reporter:


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