It seems like Sen. Elizabeth Warren will never be able to catch a break from being grilled about her presumed Cherokee heritage. During a campaign stop in Iowa, she defended her decision to undergo a DNA test.
Warren addressed supporters in Sioux City on Saturday during her tour of Iowa, which is the first state to hold caucuses – making it crucial in context of election season. She spoke about her working-class upbringing in Oklahoma and vowed to tackle corruption and inequality, arguing that “Washington works great for those with money but not for anyone else.”
However, the first question from the audience was not about her economic agenda, but about the same old topic – her Native American lineage and controversial decision to take a DNA test that revealed it.
The test performed by Stanford genetics professor, Carlos Bustamante, showed that Warren’s DNA had segments that matched those of people native to Mexico, Peru and Colombia.
“My question to you: Why did you undergo the DNA testing and give Donald Trump more fodder to be a bully?” a woman asked.
Seemingly unperturbed by the question, Warren said that she was “glad for us to have a chance to talk about it.”
She then complained about her treatment by Republicans, who she said had “honed in on that part” of her history in the hope of making “a lot of hay out of it” since 2012. Warren said she was fed up with “racial slurs” and “a lot of ugly stuff” directed at her, so she decided to “put it all out there” to stop the talking.
In an apparent attempt to set the record straight, Warren acknowledged that she was not a minority.
“I am not a person of color. I am not a citizen of a tribe. Tribes – and only tribes – determine tribal citizenship,” she said, adding that she understands a difference between having an “ancestry” and being a tribe member.
Sioux City was the second stop of her four-city Iowa trip after Council Bluffs, where she kicked off her tour on Friday.
Warren, who was repeatedly taunted by Trump as “fake Pocahontas,” demanded that he dish out $1 million to a charity of her choice, as he had promised to do in July if she could prove that she is “an Indian.” When confronted about the proposal, Trump told journalists that they had “better read [the transcript] again.”
NIWRC is a nonprofit working to protect Native women from violence. More than half of all Native women have experienced sexual violence, and the majority of violent crimes against Native Americans are perpetrated by non-Natives.
Send them your $1M check, @realDonaldTrump.
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) October 15, 2018
While Warren may feel vindicated by the results of the DNA test she published in October, any hopes that her Cherokee saga is over have proven to be wishful thinking. What her test really did is draw the anger of the very same Cherokee, who accused her of trivializing tribal ancestry, bringing the topic back into the spotlight.
“Using a DNA test to lay claim to any connection to the Cherokee Nation or any tribal nation, even vaguely, is inappropriate and wrong,” Cherokee Nation Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr said at the time, accusing Warren of “undermining tribal interests.”
In fact, when Warren announced that she had formed an “exploratory committee” to consider a run for president, Twitter reacted with Pocahontas taunts and skepticism.
Trump, who laughed off Warren’s chances of beating him in 2020, recently tweeted an image featuring Warren’s campaign logo, with 2020 changed to “1/2020th.”
The controversy about Warren’s heritage stems from the 1980s and 1990s, when she listed herself as a minority in university records. A number of university officials referred to her as a Native American, with an article included in 1997 Fordham University Law Review calling her Harvard’s “first woman of color,” the New York Times reported back in 2012. Warren argued that it was not an attempt to advance her academic career, as suggested by some critics, insisting that she genuinely believed she was a distant descendent of Cherokee and Delaware tribes.
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