Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren has been repeatedly criticized by Donald Trump over her claims of Native American heritage.
The president has called her “Pocahontas” and accused Warren of making up Native American ancestry.
Warren has not minced words when referring to Trump, either, saying he has “hate in his heart,” is a “small, insecure money grubber” and a “racist bully.” At the Democratic National Convention on July 25, Warren again launched into a series of attacks against Trump, and he again referred to her in a Tweet as “Pocahontas.”
CNN reported that Trump “taunted Democrats by telling them “Pocahontas is now the face of your party” in February 2017.
But is Warren really American Indian/Native American?
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Warren Insists She is Part Native American & Says She’s Proud Of It
The Boston Globe said in 2012 that Warren “has been unable to document the claims.” New York Magazine calls Warren’s heritage claims “murky” but said it was “obvious racism” for Trump to repeatedly call Warren “Pocahontas.” Added the magazine in June 2016, “The problem is that no one ever found evidence to support Warren’s claim that she is part Cherokee and Delaware either.”
The Boston Globe also said that Warren claims she is part Native American. “Native American is part of my family. It’s an important part of my heritage,” the newspaper quoted Warren as saying.
CBS News is among the many other media outlets that have reported Warren’s claims. CBS News quoted her as saying: “Being Native American is part of who our family is and I’m glad to tell anyone about that. I am just very proud of it.”
2. Warren Cites ‘Family Stories’ & Her Grandfather’s ‘High Cheek Bones’ As Proof That She is Part Native American
According to CNN, Warren has cited family stories “passed down to her through generations as evidence” that she is part Native American.
However, some media sites have said the family lore is not backed up by anything more concrete. The Washington Post said Warren’s account of “family stories” didn’t “appear to be bolstered by any actual evidence.”
CBS News said that Warren had never “asked her relatives for documentation of her lineage.” The network said she claimed to “have lived in a family that has talked about Native Americans, talked about tribes since I had been a little girl.” CBS said Warren offered up as evidence the fact her grandfather had “high cheek bones.” She pointed out that, in a picture of her grandfather, she noticed that he “had high cheek bones like all of the Indians do,” said CBS.
The Boston Globe did a thorough investigation of the question in 2012 and found that some members of Warren’s family had also heard the family lore, but others had not. The Globe also found that one Warren biography at California State University at Fullerton found that “one of Warren’s relatives once shot at an Indian.” The family had no documentation showing Native American heritage and was not on tribal rolls, the newspaper said, adding that people with Indian heritage might have hidden it for many reasons, including racial discrimination. The Globe said that “Even if Warren has some degree of Native American blood, it is unclear if it would meet conventional standards of what constitutes a minority.”
3. Her Republican Senate Opponent, Scott Brown, First Raised The Issue & Wanted Her to Take a DNA Test
Republican Scott Brown made Elizabeth Warren’s claims of Native American heritage a campaign issue when he ran against her in the 2012 Massachusetts Senate race, said The Washington Post. He suggested that Warren take a DNA test to settle the claims, The Post said. Brown revived the criticisms in 2016; there is no evidence that Warren has taken such a test.
Brown’s campaign ran an advertisement against Warren that raised the Native American issue:
Brown, who lost to Warren, said, “First of all, as we all know, she’s not Native American. She’s not 1/32nd. She has no Native American background except for what her family told her.”
4. A Genealogist Has Said Her Claims Might Be True, But That’s Contested
A genealogist has claimed that Warren may be 1/32 Cherokee. The Atlantic says that, even if that’s true (it’s debated), “Warren would not be eligible to become a member of any of the three federally recognized Cherokee tribes based on the evidence so far surfaced by independent genealogists about her ancestry.”
Mother Jones says the genealogist found that “Warren’s great-great-great grandmother on her mother’s side was Cherokee,” which would make her 1/32 Native American. However, the magazine then added a few hedges: “provided the genealogist didn’t miss anything” and only “if her great-great-great grandmother was full-blooded (that’s unclear).”
New York Magazine says that a “genealogist from the New England Historic Genealogical Society believed he’d found a marriage certificate that proved Warren’s great-great-great-grandmother was Cherokee, but later, questions were raised about whether the document exists.”
5. She Was Listed as Being a Minority at Harvard Law School
According to The Washington Post, Brown first raised the issue of Warren “having been identified as Native American at Harvard with the suggestion that Warren might have used her alleged identity to get ahead.”
The Boston Globe said Warren admitted that she had “listed herself as a minority in directories of law professors” when she was a professor at Harvard because she wanted to network with “people like me,” which the Globe said referred to “those with Native American roots.”
In a 1996 story in the Harvard Crimson student newspaper, a Harvard official stressed Warren’s heritage in response to questions about faculty diversity. “Professor of Law Elizabeth Warren is Native American,” a spokesperson for the law school told the newspaper. Trump has accused Warren of pretending to be Native American to “advance her career,” which he called “very racist.”
The Boston Globe said Warren denies that she was hired at Harvard because of her Indian ancestral claims, and the newspaper interviewed two dozen people “who recruited or worked with Warren who said her ethnic background played no role in her hiring.”