Warren's Indian Country Plan Doesn't Mention Her Heritage

Warren has apologized repeatedly for identifying herself as American Indian

Sen. Elizabeth Warren / Getty
August 16, 2019

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) released a detailed plan to address problems in Indian Country in the United States, but declined to mention her own disputed heritage claims that have caused her political embarrassment.

The 2020 presidential candidate wrote the U.S. had to be honest about its systemic mistreatment of American Indians, dating back to before its founding.

"The story of America's mistreatment of American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians is a long and painful one, rooted in centuries of discrimination, neglect, greed, and violence," she wrote in a Medium post. "Tribal Nations robbed of more than a billion acres of land. Resources seized and sacred sites desecrated. Native languages and religions suppressed. Children literally stolen from communities in an effort to eradicate entire cultures."

Warren pledged as president to end what she called the federal government's callous disregard for native sovereignty, such as with the Dakota and Keystone pipelines.

"I’ll revoke the the [sic] ill-advised and improperly granted permits for the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, and reject permitting of new projects where these processes are not followed," she wrote.

The plan also addressed voting rights and sexual assault in Native communities. Warren called for a reversal of the Oliphant v. Suquamish Supreme Court decision holding that tribal governments don't hold jurisdiction "over non-Natives on tribal land."

"I agree with the National Congress of American Indians that Congress should 'expand inherent tribal criminal jurisdiction over all persons committing any crime in their Indian country in a manner that ensures that defendants have the same due process protections as required under the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010 and the 2013 Re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act,'" she wrote.

CNN reported Warren and Rep. Deb Haaland (D., N.M.), who has endorsed Warren for the presidential nomination, released a draft bill "aimed at addressing needs of Native Americans identified by the US Commission on Civil Rights."

Not surprisingly, Warren didn't delve into her tortured personal history on the subject. Throughout her academic and political career, she claimed to have Native American heritage, with only Oklahoma family lore to back her up.

"I have lived in a family that has talked about Native America, talked about tribes, since I’ve been a little girl," she said in 2012, when she first ran successfully for her Senate seat.

She said she listed herself as a minority in professional directories because she thought she would meet others who grew up similarly.

President Donald Trump has continually taunted her as "Pocahontas," leading Warren to release a video and DNA test that drew rebuke from Native Americans, activists, and progressives for delving into race science and blurring the lines over tribal citizenship. The test showed she was at most 1/64th Native American and as little as 1/1,024th.

After initially claiming victory for purportedly proving Trump wrong about her Native American background, she apologized and in private acknowledged she made a mistake.

Then, matters grew worse in February when the Washington Post reported Warren listed her race as "American Indian" on a State Bar of Texas registration card in 1986. She apologized and has repeatedly said she shouldn't have done it.

Confronted about it in New Hampshire last month, Warren maintained she had received no career advancement from calling herself Native American.

"Nothing about the way I identified had anything to do with my academic career, the Boston Globe did an extensive piece on that about a year ago," Warren said. "Even so, I shouldn't have done it, I am not a person of color, I am not a citizen of a tribe, and I've apologized for any confusion over tribal sovereignty, tribal citizenship, and any harm caused by that."

The voter later told Fox News she felt Warren had pandered in her response and not truly owned up to the mistake.