I am a Cherokee woman. Elizabeth Warren is not - "As Native people, we are relegated to being invisible, while Warren is not."
Sunday, December 03, 2017
For 72 hours this week, news headlines focused on President Donald Trump’s offensive usage of the name “Pocahontas” when he referred to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) at an event to honor Navajo Code Talkers on Monday.
As a young Cherokee woman, one would assume that I would take Warren’s side in standing up against Trump’s racist remark. Following the incident, Warren lambasted the president, telling MSNBC that Trump has done “this over and over thinking somehow he’s going to shut me up with it. It hadn’t worked in the past, it is not going to work in the future.”
A real Native American hero, right?
She was not a hero to me when she failed to foster a haven of support for Native students within Harvard University’s alienating Ivy League culture.
She is not a hero for spending years awkwardly avoiding Native leaders. She is not a hero because, despite claiming to be the only Native woman in the U.S. Senate, she has done nothing to advance our rights.
She is not from us. She does not represent us. She is not Cherokee.
The controversy over Warren’s identity stems from the 1990s, when Warren was a professor at Harvard Law School. The university promoted her and celebrated her as the first minority woman to receive tenure.
When the Boston press dug up these reports during Warren’s campaign for Senate in 2012, she stated she didn’t know why Harvard had promoted her as Native American. It appears that Warren categorized herself as a minority when it served her career and later dropped the marker after gaining tenure.
“…as Native people, we are relegated to being invisible, while Warren is not.”
In defending her supposed Native identity, Warren has drawn from both racist stereotypes and easily refutable stories about her family. At a 2012 press conference Warren stated that her family knew her grandfather was “part” Cherokee because “he had high cheekbones like all of the Indians.” Cherokee genealogists have pored through her family history to find that “None of her direct line ancestors are ever shown to be anything other than white, dating back to long before the Trail of Tears.” To add insult to injury, despite Warren’s public claims of Native American heritage, she has decidedly avoided talking with Native leaders and, in 2012, refused to meet with a group of Cherokee women at the Democratic National Convention.