Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., speaks during a Democratic presidential primary debate Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020, in Las Vegas, hosted by NBC News and MSNBC. (AP Photo/John Locher)
200+ American Indians have served a letter to former squaw Elizabeth Warren, calling on her to address her past goofiness about being a member of the tribe.
Published on Medium, the open letter comes courtesy of three groups telling Warren she needs to seriously get right with them — by using her admission of cultural/tribal appropriation as a teachable moment.
Basically, she needs to confess in a giant way that what she did was really, really crappy.
So say the “concerned citizens of the Cherokee Nation, United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians, and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians,” who “recognize [their] responsibility to stand up for [their] communities: to those [they] claim and those who claim [them].”
The letter starts with a bit of reaming:
Senator Warren, as you seek the Democratic nomination for President of the United States, your history of false claims to American Indian identity and the defense of these claims with a highly publicized DNA test continue to dog your political career. For Native Americans, this moment is more than an annoyance; it represents the most public debate about our identity in a generation. In a country where Indigenous people are mostly invisible, what Americans conclude from this debate will impact Native rights for years to come.
Liz has made it stylish for plain ol’ white folk to masquerade as something they’re not:
Whatever your intentions, your actions have normalized white people claiming to be Native, and perpetuated a dangerous misunderstanding of tribal sovereignty. Your actions do not exist in a vacuum but are part of a long and violent history.
And the system was already rife with whites citing membership for financial gain:
The Los Angeles Times recently reported that white members of fake “tribes” have been awarded over $800 million in no-bid federal contracts set aside for minority business owners. Rather than using evidence of Native ancestry, these fake tribes rely solely on family stories and commercial DNA tests.
As you may remember, when Elizabeth announced she wasn’t an Indian, she blamed the misunderstanding on her family (here). I guess in the Warren house, they didn’t have mirrors.
But to the letter’s authors, her familial defense is a no-go:
When you still defend yourself by stating you believed what you heard growing up, you set a harmful example for these white people stealing Native identity and resources with stories very similar to your own.
And here’s something I’d not before heard — America’s Indian tribes are organizations of the political variety:
[W]e are actually political groups. Our rights are based on citizenship in sovereign Nations and those Nations’ treaty relationship to the United States. But that hasn’t stopped opponents to tribes from arguing that laws defending Native rights treat us differently based on race and therefore should be declared unconstitutional. If they win, it could be the end of tribes as we know them.
And Elizabeth is guilty:
By publicly equating race and biology with Native identity, your DNA test promoted the exact same logic the Right is currently using to try and destroy Native rights.
The Cherokee want a real come-to-Jesus moment:
You have yet to fully address the harm you have caused. While your apologies are a step in the right direction, they have been vague and inadequate.
She ain’t gettin’ off easy!
Accountability is not just admitting you made a mistake, but working to correct the harm it caused. A recent collective statement by Cherokee scholars makes clear that any person who publicly identifies as Cherokee has initiated an open discussion about their identity. As a Harvard professor and U.S. Senator, you have the unique opportunity to turn this controversy into a needed learning moment.
They’re calling for her to make clear three things, as publicly as all get-out:
Like many other white families, your family story of Cherokee and Delaware ancestry is false and it was wrong for you to repeat it as an adult. You have had the genealogical evidence since 2012. Stating you do not qualify for citizenship is not enough; the truth is you and your ancestors are white.
Equating Cherokee identity with the results of a DNA test was more than a misstep — it was dangerous. Your supporters and the public need to understand why. We ask that you explain that only tribal affiliation and kinship determine Native identity, and that equating Native identity with race and biology erodes the foundation of Indigenous sovereignty.
Claiming Native identity without citizenship, kinship ties, or recognition from Native communities undermines Indigenous self determination. As the most public example of this behavior, you need to clearly state that Native people are the sole authority on who is — and who is not — Native.
That last one seems odd. There’s a sense to it — they claim who they want. Yet, does lineage not also determine who is Cherokee?
Perhaps “Cherokee” and “member of the Cherokee nation” are concepts which can coexist?
Either way, Elizabeth Warren trumpeted her Indian Identity for years.
And, so far as I can see, there’s been very little backlash.
As political groups, do the Cherokee Nation, United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians, and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians believe a meeting of the above demands would change her position in the primaries?
Or do they want to capitalize on the attention she’s getting, so her mea culpa will get maximum exposure?
Whatever the reason for their timing, they may have to get in line — right now, the 2020 hopeful’s busy saying she sent her privately-schooled kids to public school, fighting viruses with unicycles (here), and trying to sell herself as poor while apparently hiding from cameras as she exits private jets (here)
Why do you keep repeating this ? Your brother says your father was not a janitor.https://t.co/3GqW9F0p3A
— EV Now (@EVNow) February 19, 2020
Busy schedule. Giving the Cherokee their props may have to wait ’til after Hillary swings in and wins the primaries.
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