Warren Apologizes for 'Mistakes' at Native American Forum

'I am sorry for harm I have caused'

August 19, 2019

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) opened her remarks to a Native American candidate forum Monday by apologizing for "mistakes" she had made, an implicit reference to her past claims of American Indian ancestry.

"Like anyone who's being honest with themselves, I know that I have made mistakes," she said. "I am sorry for harm I have caused. I have listened and I have learned a lot, and I am grateful for the many conversations that we've had together. It is a great honor to be able to partner with Indian Country, and that's what I've tried to do as a senator, and that's what I promise I will do as president of the United States of America."

Without explicitly mentioning it, Warren clearly referred to her widely panned decision to release a DNA test last year hoping to prove her longtime claims of Native American ancestry. However, it backfired, since the test showed at best she had a Native ancestor 6 to 10 generations back.

Native people and progressives blasted her for delving into race science and seemingly playing into President Donald Trump's hands. The president has long derided her as "Pocahontas" for receiving minority status as a professor and continuing to claim Indian ancestry when she first ran for office in 2012.

After triumphantly releasing a video repeating her claims of Indian ancestry, Warren wound up apologizing privately to Indian activists, and has since repeatedly said she was sorry for blurring the distinctions over tribal identity. In February, she apologized again when the Washington Post reported she listed her race as "American Indian" on a State Bar of Texas registration card in 1986.

She's always said she received no advancement in her legal academic career because of her claims.

Radio host Charlamagne Tha God quipped in May she was the "original Rachel Dolezal," referring to the white former NAACP chapter president who falsely claimed she was black.

Warren released a plan called "Honoring and Empowering Tribal Nations and Indigenous Peoples" last week, calling for sweeping changes like allowing tribal governments to have jurisdiction over non-Natives on tribal lands. She also promised to revoke the permits for the Dakota and Keystone pipelines.

Warren said the federal government's relationship with Native peoples was one of constant "broken promises" that she would fix when in office.

Rep. Deb Haaland (D., N.M.), a Native American congresswoman who has endorsed Warren for president, released a draft bill with Warren to address civil rights needs for Native peoples. Haaland introduced Warren at Monday's event, calling her a "sister."