Sen. Elizabeth Warren's (D-MA) fake Native American heritage is back in the spotlight after real estate mogul Donald Trump has used it as a bludgeon to counterpunch Warren's attacks on him. Here is everything you need know about Warren's fake heritage.
The controversy began when The Boston Herald brought it up in the 2012 campaign. The Herald's report noted that the Harvard Crimson reported in 1998 that she was the university's only tenured minority as a "Native American." When the report first came out, Warren claimed she was unaware as to why she was listed as a Native American.
Warren later spun it as claiming that there was "family lore" about her supposed Native American heritage. There were two main stories that she put forward about her Native American heritage:
- Her "Aunt Bea" supposedly talked about her "pappaw"'s "high cheekbones."
- There were family tensions due to her father's family's disapproval of her mother's part-Cherokee and Delaware blood.
However, Legal Insurrection's William Jacobson dug into Warren's stories and found no evidence to substantiate them.
In the case of Aunt Bea, Cherokee genealogist Twila Barnes unearthed Bea's death certificate and discovered that she was listed as "White" instead of "American Indian" by none other than Warren.
As for the family tensions:
Warren’s parents were married in 1932 in a church not far from their home town by a respected and prominent pastor, who was unlikely to have performed ceremonies for runaways seeking to elope. The witness on the marriage certificate was a family friend of Warren’s mother, not some stranger rounded up by the pastor at the last minute for an unexpected elopement.
The young couple then immediately returned home where their marriage was announced in the local paper in a celebratory fashion, with extensive descriptions of the prominence of the two families in the local business community. Perhaps most important, the announcement mentions that the marriage was a surprise to many of the young couple’s friends, but said nothing about it being a surprise to family.
Additionally, Warren's mother attended her in-law's 25th wedding anniversary four years after she married Warren's father, and none of Warren's family members were able to confirm her story.
The available evidence does not appear to lend any credence to Warren's "family lore."
There isn't a scintilla of Native American blood in Warren. The Atlantic committed a random act of journalism in 2012 and found that Warren is not eligible to be listed as a member of a Cherokee tribe:
Fractional Native American ancestry is quite hard to prove to the standards of the U.S. government, which in many ways acts as the ultimate "birther" in this regard. Percentage of ancestry or "blood quantum" -- the creepy and antique-sounding term used by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, which certifies it for two of the three Cherokee tribes -- is recognized by the Bureau based on original documents (such as birth certificates, Census records, and death certificates) through something called a Certificate of Degree of Indian Blood, or CDIB.
Warren would need to be certified by the Bureau of Indian Affairs as at least 1/16 Eastern Cherokee on a CDIB to be eligible to join the Eastern Cherokee. The United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee has an even stricter enrollment cut-off: "a minimum blood quantum requirement of one quarter (1/4) degree Keetoowah Cherokee blood" documented via a CDIB plus a direct descent from someone on the Dawes Rolls. Tribal citizenship standards are set by the tribes themselves, and not the U.S. government.
Warren has only claimed to be 1/32 Native American–which has been debunked–and even if she actually was, Warren does not have any ancestors listed on Cherokee tribe rolls that are necessary to become an official member of Cherokee Nation.
Warren's supporters once claimed that a marriage certificate showing that Warren's great-great-great grandmother listed as a Cherokee vindicated Warren. However, evidence suggests that this document may not exist.
Warren didn't claim to be a Native American until her 30s and may have only listed it to score a job. At that point, she was listed under the minority section of a law teachers for-hire directory. Harvard later promoted her Native American heritage.
Warren has claimed that she only listed herself as Native American in order to have lunch with others like her, but there would have been no way for them to have known that she was Native American since she was only listed as a minority, not specifically as a Native American, in the directory.
"Did Warren get the Harvard Law job because she claimed to be Native American?" writes Jacobson. "We don’t know, neither she nor Harvard Law have released her hiring file. But that’s not really the pertinent question. What we do know is that she tried to benefit from the claim, so at minimum there was an attempt to exploit that false claim."
Warren isn't even listed as a Native American in the Senate. She has also rebuffed requests to meet with Cherokee women and has never taken the time to join a tribe or help out the Cherokee community.
Former Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) has jokingly suggested that Warren could stop the controversy by taking a DNA test. But she likely won't, since all the evidence indicates she is deserving of the nickname "Fauxcahontas."