FLASHBACK: Warren Said Her Parents Eloped Because Of Racism Against Her Mom's Native American Ancestry

In a June 29, 2012 interview with NECN’s Jim Braude on the BroadSide television program, Elizabeth Warren stated that her parents had to elope in 1932 because her father’s parents objected to her mother’s Cherokee and Delaware ancestry. Warren stated:

Actually, you have it wrong about what it is I believe. My mom and dad were very much in love with each other and they wanted to get married and my father’s parents said absolutely not. You can’t marry her because she’s part Cherokee and she’s part Delaware. And um, after fighting it as long as they could, my parents went off, they eloped. It was an issue in our family the whole time I grew up about these two families. It was an issue still raised at my mother’s funeral. So what I know about my parents is I know that in that little town they grew up in that my father’s parents knew enough about my mother and her family to say I have no doubts.”

With the latest news of the results from Warren’s DNA test, which show that the part of her DNA derived from so-called “Native American” ancestry is between 1/64th and 1/1,024th, and that that ancestry is actually Mexican, Peruvian, and Colombian, it might be useful to consider if Warren’s story about the supposed prejudice of her grandparents might be made out of whole cloth.

One determined researcher, Cherokee genealogist Twila Barnes, did some background checking, and found some interesting tidbits that led her and her team to suggest that the marriage of Warren’s parents was a typical marriage from the era of the Great Depression, and not an elopement triggered by racial bias. First, the marriage was performed by a prominent minister who later helped found Southern Methodist University, not a justice of the peace.

Another tidbit: Warren’s father only turned 21, the legal age to marry in Oklahoma at the time roughly two months before the wedding, so the idea that the couple fought it “as long as they could” sounds a bit stretched, since once her father turned 21 it was legal for him to marry. It is possible his parents, if they objected, did so because they wanted their son to finish studying engineering at A&M; indeed, evidence indicates he dropped out after two years of college.

Additionally, the wedding announcement states that the day after Warren’s parents were married, they came back to town and announced it to everyone. That didn't seem to raise any hackles.

It is possible, of course, that Warren’s parents eloped, but with the paucity of any evidence that she has any Native American ancestry, it seems highly improbable that any elopement came as a result of prejudice over either parent’s “Native American” ancestry.


What's Your Reaction?