Scientist: Warren Could Have 1/64th to 1/1,024th Native American Heritage

Warren demands Trump pony up promised $1 million to charity

Sen. Elizabeth Warren / Getty Images
October 15, 2018

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) released DNA test results showing she could be anywhere between 1/64th to 1/1,024th Native American in an attempt to diffuse a controversy that has dogged her political career for years.

The aggressive move by the first-term lawmaker is yet another sign she will run in 2020 against President Donald Trump, who has derided her as "Pocahontas" for years, even at an event honoring Native American Code Talkers from World War II.

Warren listed herself as Native American while teaching at the University of Pennsylvania Law School from 1987 to 1995 and then at Harvard Law School beginning in 1995, the Boston Globe reports. Fact-checkers had not been able to verify her claims because they were based on "family lore."

She released to the Globe her DNA results analyzed by Stanford University Professor Carlos Bustamante, known for his work on tracking population migration via DNA analysis. His calculation: Her "pure Native American ancestor" appeared "in the range of 6-10 generations ago," which would track with her family lore that her great-great-great-grandmother, O.C. Sarah Smith, was at least part-Native American.

However, if her ancestor goes 10 generations back, that would make her a scant 1/1,024th Native American. If it were six generations, she would be at most 1/64th Native American, although the Globe stated it would be 1/32nd.

The Globe reported Smith was born in the late 1700s and identified as white, although she may have done so to disguise her true identity and avoid racial discrimination.

Warren also released a YouTube video, featuring interviews of her, family members and students discussing her family background and career. It is spliced with clips of Trump and conservatives mocking her Native American ancestry claims, and it also shows her calling Bustamente to find out her DNA results.

"The president likes to call my mom a liar. What do the facts say?" Warren asks.

"The facts suggest that you absolutely have Native American ancestry in your pedigree," Bustamente replies.

His report said "the vast majority" of Warren’s ancestry is European, but added "the results strongly support the existence of an unadmixed Native American ancestor."

"I'm not enrolled in a tribe and only tribes determine tribal citizenship," Warren says in the video. "I understand and respect that distinction, but my family history is my family history."

She concluded the video by saying this story wasn't just about "casual racism," and she charged that her political opponents have used the controversy to "distract from the kinds of changes I'm fighting for, and the kind of change I'm trying to bring to Washington."

Warren had until recently been coy about her 2020 ambitions, claiming she was "not running for president" and was instead focused on her re-election bid for U.S. Senate in 2018.

She finally said last month she would take a "hard look" at running after the midterms, and her bid to put her ancestry controversy to rest is another sign she's got her eyes on the White House.

Warren took to Twitter on Monday to remind Trump of his promise to donate $1 million to her favorite charity if she took a DNA test to prove her heritage. He said in July he would make the offer at a hypothetical debate with her.

"By the way, @realDonaldTrump: Remember saying on 7/5 that you’d give $1M to a charity of my choice if my DNA showed Native American ancestry? I remember – and here's the verdict. Please send the check to the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center," she tweeted.

Trump didn't appear fazed; he told reporters on Monday that Warren would be "very easy" to defeat if she were the Democratic nominee. When asked about his $1 million offer, he denied ever making such a pledge.

Warren is one of at least a dozen potential contenders rumored to be looking at the Democratic nomination. Others include former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.), Sen. Kamala Harris (D., Calif.), Sen. Cory Booker (D., N.J.), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.), former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D.), and former Attorney General Eric Holder.

UPDATE: 10:23 A.M.: This article was updated to correct the original calculation that Warren could be 1/512th Native American if her ancestor went 10 generations back. Instead, that would make her 1/1,024th Native American.

UPDATE: 10:38 A.M.: The article has also been updated to note that the Globe miscalculated that Warren would be 1/32nd Native American if her ancestor went six generations back. Instead, that would make her 1/64th Native American.

UPDATE: 11:43 A.M.: The article was updated to show Trump said he would make the $1 million offer to Warren at a hypothetical debate with her.