Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren's claim to Cherokee nation ancestry seems to be collapsing for lack of evidence.
The New England Historical Genealogical Society this week announced that it could find no documentation to back up Harvard law professor Warren's claim, which appears to have been based on family legend rather than actual research.
And yesterday, self-described Cherokee genealogist Twila Barnes penned an open letter demanding that Warren tell the truth about her ancestry:
This is starting to make us question your ability as a legal mind! And that makes us question whether you really got your job at Harvard on your own merits or whether you climbed on the backs of the Cherokee people in order to further your career.
So, Ms. Warren, you see, it is not just your opponent who has questions. We Cherokees have questions too and those questions have yet to be answered by you. You see, for us Cherokees, this is not political. This is about the truth.
You have claimed something you had no right to claim—our history and our heritage and our identity. Those things belong to us, and us alone. These are not things we choose to embrace when they benefit us and then cast aside when we no longer need them, but that is what you seem to have done by "checking a box" for several years and then no longer "checking" it more recently, when apparently you no longer needed it.
Of course, you say you only "checked the box" in an attempt to meet others like you, but that doesn't make sense. If one is claiming to be Cherokee and wants to meet other Cherokees, they don't "check a box" on a job application or in a directory for their profession! They go to where Cherokees are.
You are from Oklahoma!
As for Warren, she has been downplaying the matter lately, and in recent years she does not appear to have been using minority status for professional purposes. Nevertheless she allowed herself to be described in the past as a Native American and the fact that Harvard had her listed as a minority professor indicates she did get some career bang out of being a fake Indian.
I'm not sure how serious any of this is. Claiming that you're part Cherokee at first blush strikes me as about equal to calling yourself "The Colonel" — a relatively innocuous piece of American braggadocio. But Barnes' complaint is a reminder that such a seemingly harmless fib is an insult to people whose ancestors didn't find Harvard waiting at the end of the trail of tears.
I dislike those Ancestry.com commercials because the stories are fiction but they use real historical images — among them a picture of William J. Burns, the great detective who caught the union thugs behind the 1910 bombing of the L.A. Times. But the narrative in those ads has some truth to it: Most of us are surprised when we put away family lore and dig into our ancestors' actual histories. I know I was saddened to find that the Civil War heroes regularly referenced in my own family were in fact not direct ancestors, and that they were Protestants to boot.
In Warren's case the shifty family history sets up a stark contrast with the incumbent in the race — Republican Sen. Scott Brown, who gets forgiven a lot of his rotten RINO legislative record thanks to his willingness to let it all hang out. It's also weirdly like President Obama's editing himself into presidential history. These folks seek positions of power unlike any others on earth, and you would expect even their vices to be grand. But they're not. In the unsettled ids of our titans, you'll find only the most vain, petty kinds of sneakiness.
Related: Mount Vernon, Ohio's own Paul Lynde does a guest spot on F-Troop: