Native American heritage of Elizabeth Warren

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“Pocahontas (the bad version), sometimes referred to as Elizabeth Warren, is getting slammed. She took a bogus DNA test and it showed that she may be 1/1024, far less than the average American. Now Cherokee Nation denies her, ‘DNA test is useless.’ Even they don’t want her. Phony!” – President Donald J. Trump | @realDonaldTrump

Sen Elizabeth Warren (D-Ma) of Massachusetts
Sen Elizabeth Warren (D-Ma) of Massachusetts

In April 2012, The Boston Globe sparked a campaign controversy by reporting that from 1986 to 1995 Elizabeth Warren had listed herself as a racial minority in the Association of American Law Schools (AALS) Directory of Law Teachers. Harvard Law School had identified Warren as a “woman of color” in response to criticisms about a lack of faculty diversity. Scott Brown, her Republican opponent in the Senate race, accused Warren of fabricating Native American heritage to gain advantage in the job market. Former colleagues and supervisors at universities where she had worked stated that Elizabeth Warren’s ancestry played no role in her hiring.

Elizabeth Warren stated that she had listed herself as a minority to meet people of similar heritage, and was unaware that Harvard had listed her as a woman of color. Her brothers defended her, stating that they “grew up listening to our mother and grandmother and other relatives talk about our family’s Cherokee and Delaware heritage”. In her 2014 autobiography, Warren stated that she had gained no career advantage from her stated heritage, and described the allegations as untrue and hurtful.

A 2018 comprehensive review by The Boston Globe found “clear evidence, in documents and interviews, that her claim to Native American ethnicity was never considered by the Harvard Law faculty, which voted resoundingly to hire her, or by those who hired her to four prior positions at other law schools”.

Genealogical investigators could not find proof that Elizabeth Warren’s ancestors were or were not Native American, with the Oklahoma Historical Society noting that it can be difficult to trace Native American heritage because of intermarriage and deliberate avoidance of registration. Both Brown and President Donald Trump have challenged Elizabeth Warren to prove her Native American ancestry by getting a DNA test. As president, Trump has sometimes referred to Warren as “Pocahontas”, which Warren and others considered to be a racial slur.

In October 2018, Elizabeth Warren released the results of a genetic ancestry analysis conducted by Stanford University professor Carlos D. Bustamante to The Boston Globe, which “strongly support the existence of an un-admixed Native American ancestor in (her) pedigree, likely in the range of 6–10 generations ago”. One Native American ancestor 6–10 generations ago would represent between 1/64 and 1/1,024 of Warren’s ancestry. The result matches the existing tradition in Warren’s family that her great-great-great-grandmother, O. C. Sarah Smith, was at least part Cherokee.

The Cherokee Nation released a statement arguing that “using a DNA test to lay claim to any connection to the Cherokee Nation or any tribal nation, even vaguely, is inappropriate and wrong.” In response, Elizabeth Warren said that she was not seeking tribal membership, tweeting “DNA & family history has nothing to do with tribal affiliation or citizenship, which is determined only – only – by Tribal Nations. I respect the distinction, & don’t list myself as Native in the .

“Now that her claims of being of Indian heritage have turned out to be a scam and a lie, Elizabeth Warren should apologize for perpetrating this fraud against the American Public. Harvard called her “a person of color” (amazing con), and would not have taken her otherwise! Thank you to the Cherokee Nation for revealing that Elizabeth Warren, sometimes referred to as Pocahontas, is a complete and total Fraud!” – President Donald J. Trump | @realDonaldTrump

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