Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., winks as she jokes with other senators on the Senate Banking Committee ahead of a hearing on the nomination of Marvin Goodfriend to be a member of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
UPDATE: Some math by the Boston Globe was wrong. See below.
What do you get when you put Senator Elizabeth Warren and 31 other white people in a room? One whole Native American.
Warren is gearing up for what appears to be a 2020 presidential run. Ahead of such a move, she has decided to settle the question of her ancestry once and for all. Despite her claims, however, I don’t think it’s actually the answer she really wanted. Via the Boston Globe:
Senator Elizabeth Warren has released a DNA test that provides “strong evidence’’ she had a Native American in her family tree dating back 6 to 10 generations, an unprecedented move by one of the top possible contenders for the 2020 Democratic nomination for president.
Bustamante calculated that Warren’s pure Native American ancestor appears in her family tree “in the range of 6-10 generations ago.” That timing fits Warren’s family lore, passed down during her Oklahoma upbringing, that her great-great-great-grandmother, O.C. Sarah Smith, was at least partially Native American.
Smith was born in the late 1700s. She identified as white in historical documents, though at the time Indians faced discrimination, and Smith would have had strong incentives to call herself white if possible.
The inherent imprecision of the six-page DNA analysis could provide fodder for Warren’s critics. If her great-great-great-grandmother was Native American, that puts her at 1/32nd American Indian. But the report includes the possibility that she’s just 1/512th Native American if the ancestor is 10 generations back.
Here’s the thing that even a simple Google search will reveal: 1/32 is, at best, a controversial claim of Native American ancestry within the Native American community. While she’s not asking for membership to any tribe, the best case scenario for a 1/32 claim is that it makes her like most white people, the vast majority of whom don’t identify as Native American.
To say she’s anywhere between 1/32 and 1/512 is a laughable claim at best… granted, her attempts in the past to prove her heritage, including the infamous Pow Wow Chow recipes, have been just as funny. The problem for Warren is that there is now scientific proof that her claim is more of a joke than anything.
UPDATE: The fractions were off.
BOSTON GLOBE: "Due to a math error, a story about Elizabeth Warren misstated the ancestry percentage of a potential 10th generation relative. It should be 1/1,024."
— Saagar Enjeti (@esaagar) October 15, 2018
Cut your losses, Liz.