Native American Democrat Defends Warren: I’d ‘Never Tell Someone How They Should Identify Themselves’

Rep. Deb Haaland (D., N.M.) defended Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) on Monday after more controversy over the presidential candidate's former identification as "American Indian," saying she'd never tell someone "how they should identify themselves."

Warren, who officially announced her 2020 bid for the White House on Saturday, apologized last week after the Washington Post reported she listed her race as "American Indian" on a 1986 Texas state bar registration. She also apologized to the Cherokee Nation for muddying the waters about tribal citizenship when she released a DNA test in October purporting to vindicate her longtime claims of Native American ancestry.

Haaland, however, suggested in a CNN interview that "someone decides on their own" how to identify themselves and it wasn't her place to tell them otherwise. She is one of two Native American women in Congress.

"I am an enrolled member of a tribe in New Mexico. Senator Warren is very cognizant of the fact that tribes determine tribal membership," Haaland said. "She wasn't trying to be an enrolled member of the tribe. Also, I would never tell anyone how they should identify themselves. Someone decides on their own."

"What I know about Senator Warren is that she has fought for working families for a heck of a long time," she added. "She has returned billions to Americans who have been ripped off by big banks, and I'd like to see her and she will continue to work hard for working families and make sure that people have a fair deal in this country."

Warren implied in remarks to reporters last week that there were forms in addition to the state bar document where she called her race "American Indian."

"During this time period, this is consistent with what I did, because it was based on my understanding from my family's stories," she said.