Elizabeth Warren: Real Indian? Take a Genetic Test and Prove It

|

Sitting Bull?

Would-be Democratic senator from Massachusetts and Harvard law professor Elizabeth Warren has gotten into hot water over her claims to Native American heritage. She had herself listed as an Indian in "diversity" information at various universities and in a national directory of law school faculty. Her defense

"My Native American heritage is part of who I am, I'm proud of it and I have been open about it."
Warren grew up in Oklahoma and has provided no documentation of the ancestral claims. She has said her heritage is part of family lore.

I am not saying that Professor Warren does or does not have some genetic forbears who are Native American. But I do know from "family lore." If my relatives had been correct, I was supposed to be 1/16th Cherokee. Note the "supposed to be."

So here's the deal Professor Warren—modern science has provided an excellent way to put to rest this controversy—genetic testing. A lot of genetic testing companies offer fairly reliable genetic screening tests that do well in identifying various strands of one's ancestral ethnic heritage. In may case, it turns out that the Bailey family lore was completely false—it would be very hard to be genetically more European than I am. 

I hasten to add that while I certainly repeated the family lore to many friends, I never once used it as an excuse to list my ethnicity as Native American on any official forms nor cited it in any professional way.  

That being said, professor Warren, take a test and let the voters know if you can honestly call yourself Native American. 

As background, see my article, I'll Show You Mine, Will You Show Me Yours?, in which I reveal my genetic flaws. And go the SNPedia where you can access all of my genetic screening information. 

Advertisement

NEXT: A. Barton Hinkle on Why There Will Be Oil

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. We all have family lore. Mine says my grandfather as in the IRA in 1922 and faked his own death before he fled the country and lived under and assumed name. It’s an amusing tale, but probably heavily embellished.

    1. Mine says my great grandfather came to earth after his planet blew up, and lives in a giant ice fortress at the north pole. Doesn’t mean I’m going to be including that on any job applications.

      1. You’re a scientologist?

  2. So Ron Bailey is a proponent of the one-drop rule?

    1. No, the one chromosome rule.

    2. SIV: Nope, but I trust you are joking. In any case, I would get rid of all official ethnic classifications period. On the other hand, if you’re making diversity claims with an eye to possibly enhancing your professional prospects, then you should expect to be asked to prove it.

      1. An ancestor on the Dawes list= “Native-American” even with no corresponding genetic background.

      2. RAAAAAAAAAACIIIIIIIIIIIIIST!!!!!!

    3. Since Warren is claiming to be 1/32, Ron is technically advocating the The 3063 Drops Rule.

  3. Too much risk — reptilians need to maintain plausible deniability.

  4. I get a kick out of our family history, in so much that it’s completely irrelevant to my life or who I am. My paternal gene is Pakistani and I’m half melungeon, which is basically mixed-race (black, white, Indian) from SW Virginia. I, however, look like a Finn. The difference between Warren and myself that I’ve never thought it that important or something to crow about, just interesting. I will admit that some of my cousins get really pissed-off about the likelihood of being part black, and that makes for quality entertainment at family gatherings.

    1. I will admit that some of my cousins get really pissed-off about the likelihood of being part black,

      interesting observation. Funny how folks who are mixed race but appear to be minorities always claim the minority status, i.e. Obama, Halle Berry, Soledad O’Brien. Evidently, those who appear white do not.

      1. I think it has more to do with cultural history than anything else. The family is from SW Virginia, not known for its tolerance of anything other than white. The assumption is that most melungeons took on English sounding names in order to prevent being discriminated against way back in the 18th century. For a long time, they claimed to be part Portuguese as a way of explaining away the dark complexions, probably quite necessary in the eugenics-oriented State of Virginia in the early 1900’s. It’s just recently that they’ve started exploring their actual genetic backgrounds. Acceptance doesn’t come easily to a lot of them (unless they feel they can benefit from it, and trust me, there is lobbying going on for just that).

      2. I guess because there is nothing “special” about being a white dude from America.

      3. No,the reality is is that people will judge you based on what you look like regardless of your genoty,pe. My complexion is cafe-au-lait in the winter and mocha in the summer. Genetically, I’m 75% White, but if went around claiming to be just White, people would laugh in my face.

        1. This dicussion made me think of the Seinfeld episode when Elaine thinks shes dating a black guy and meanwhile he thinks Elaine is Spanish.

  5. From an editorial in my local daily newspaper:
    …the endless controversy over the fringe issue of whether or not she has misrepresented herself as a member of an ethnic minority because the Oklahoma native is partially Native American.
    So I guess they have some evidence the rest of us haven’t seen; perhaps they’d be willing to share it?

    1. I love how they dismiss blatant misrepresentation as a fringe issue. No partisan hackery there.

      BTW, has anyone seen any reactions to this from Native American groups or media? Generally, they’re all over anglo wannabees. I’m guessing they secretly hate her but are publicly giving her a pass for the moment.

      1. Too bad we don’t have a good control group, i.e. a noted conservative claiming Native American heritage a decade or so ago, to compare this with.

        1. Who was that? Not disputing, just don’t remember and too lazy to google.

          1. I wasn’t being snarky. I don’t know of anything like this happening to a well-known conservative. I just threw out the decade number because it would’ve been long ago enough to be forgotten by most, but not so long ago that our PC standards were all that different.

          2. Well, Ted Haggard claimed to be straight, but I don’t think that’s the same thing.

      2. since she leans left, my guess is that she gets a pass.

        1. ‘Leans left’, the hell you say.
          She capsized to port long ago.

        1. Thanks, Joe M.

      3. Not really Tonio. The Cherokee Nation is pretty silent on this one, and I’ve been keeping an eye out for any positive or negative commentary from the CN proper and not much here. However, Twyla Barnes and David Cornsilk have something to say, Tonio.

      4. I love how they dismiss blatant misrepresentation as a fringe issue.

        She’s being swift-canoed by the right!

        (Get it? “Swift-canoed“?)

  6. I love this story so much. No one but the Hit Run commentariat get the added pleasure of calling Elizabeth Warren the White Indian.

  7. Whether she actually has a great-great-great-great grandfather who was a Cherokee isn’t dispositive. The standards for qualify for ethnic spoils also require some kind of actual participation or active membership in the favored community.

    I’ve looked at these standards. I’m a quarter Mexican/Indian, and I can’t qualify. Her claim is fraudulent regardless of her genetics.

    1. The stupidity of it is that she thinks it makes her special. It’s childish.

      1. There’s no doubt that she’s special.

    2. You mean her dressing as a Native American for her elementary school’s Thanksgiving pageant doesn’t count? You, Mr. Dean, are a heartless monster.

    3. It’s fraud. That’s the word. Not relevant to the suitability of a politician?

      1. Well, it doesn’t exactly differentiate her from her peers.

        1. Yeah, I know. But we don’t have to be idiots and ignore warnings like this. If you can’t even fake character. . . .

    4. I’m a quarter Mexican/Indian

      If I may, one grandparent was a Mexican of Amerindian ancestry?

  8. My family arrived in Maryland in the 1630s and I’ve got an actual notarized copy of my birth certificate, so I’m confident I have the right to call myself a native American.

    Indian, on the other hand? Probably not.

    1. Why you could be President with qualifications like those!

    2. Hey me too, except my ancestors landed in the 1560s.

      1. Doh I meant 1650s

  9. Ever notice how it’s always, “I’m 1/32 Cherokee (or Cheyenne or Apache)” or some cool tribe like that. It’s never, “I’m 1/32 Yscani.” It’s just like the genealogy geeks; they will invariably tell you that they’ve run their family tree and “I come from royalty way back in Europe.” Of course you do.

    1. Don’t ever hang out with the DAR. They’re the worst.

      1. So true. I had great-aunts who were DAR members. They were exceedingly proud that our ancestry could be traced back to someone who came over on the Mayflower, yet somewhat amnesiac about the fact that the Mayflower branch of the family was also, and more recently, the bigamist con-man branch. Go figure.

    2. If your ancestry is at all Western European, you’ve probably descended from Charlemagne. So there’s that.

      1. Hey, that means I’m descended from Charles Martel! Cool. If I have another son, that’s going to be his name.

        1. My son is due in about a month, I lost the battle with my wife over that name.

          1. What? Why? It’s historical, and no boy is going to have problems with a name like Charles the Hammer.

            1. She thought the historical nature of the name was too “nerdy.” I replied with “really? The Hammer is nerdy?” We did agree to name him after me to keep mine going (he’ll be RBS V) but still, my name isn’t nearly as cool.

          2. Just call him “The Hammer” anyway.

            1. And be sure to give him boxing lessons when he’s ten.

              1. Why? Boys will fear the name. Women will be intrigued by it.

            2. Taking it.

              1. Amazed that no one has registered this name already.

    3. Not all genealogy geeks claim royalty. I’ve traced mine back as far as the 1400 on some branches, and the only people of any historical significance were the first white settlers in what is now West Virginia. I’ve also seen stories that my 5th great grandfather was part of George Washington’s personal body guard during the war, but I haven’t been able to substantiate that.

      1. ain’t it funny. Follow the trail long enough and you sometimes question what you really are. Tracked my paternal grandmother back to Santorini, an island in Greece. But went back a bit further and found her last name traced to Italy. That guy moved to the Greek isles and an “s” was tacked on to Hellenize the name.

        Meanwhile, paternal grandfather actually had a petition to become a US citizen in the 1910’s and listed Turkey as home. I think parts of northern Greece fell under the Byzantine empire then. So, gone from Greek-American to some Greek, some Italian, maybe some Turkish American. Look far enough, might find some Spanish and be able to check the Hispanic block.

      2. Our family lore was that we were Pennsylvania Dutch, which is generally considered to be a mispronunciation of Deutsche. But no, just some Dutch farmers that came over in the 1560s and took 400 years to make it to Ohio.

    4. I’m supposedly distantly related to the former royal family of one of the PIIGS countries, but all I have to show for it is this silly lower lip.

      1. I just hope your tongue fits in your mouth. Having it rest on that enormous familial chin is just not a good look.

    5. OT:
      Ever notice how the ‘re-incarnates’ (Shirley Maclaine, et al) are re-incarnated from royalty?
      I guess the serfs didn’t qualify; god don’t love ’em.

      1. well, sure. Doesn’t reincarnation include some tenet that your current life is based on the past one? Being a peasant would be seen as indicative of having not been too nice in the life before.

    6. I think it’s more that they’re claiming distant affiliation with populous and well-known tribes.

    7. To be fair, if you go back 500 years that’s about 25 generations. At that level you have over 30 million ancestors. So the probability of some of them being royalty is pretty high.

      1. Although the probability of some of them being others of them is even higher (meaning you’re almost certain to have some interbreeding).

    8. I’m 1/32 descended from Ishi. (Not to be confused with Uschi.)

  10. I don’t give a crap about whether Warren has any American Indian ancestors. Most Americans whose families have been here since the 19th Century probably have at least some Indian ancestry in there somewhere.

    The point is that she thought it was perfectly acceptable to gain career advantage by peddling herself off as an Indian, despite not having grown up in that culture or suffering any of the tribulations that Indians have gone through historically. It goes right to the heart of who she is and tells you all you need to know about her.

    It’s also an indictment of the whole system of ethnic preference in this country.

    1. But that’s equally true of Jews and blacks who whine about the Holocaust and slavery; they didn’t experience any of that atrocity, yet they want to use it as a trump card when arguing with their opponents.

      1. Some people currently living are Holocaust survivors.

      2. Sure they do. Of course, it’s only a “trump card” if the other side of the argument agrees and capitulates.

        One difference in the groups you point out is that both the Holocaust and Jim Crow happened within living memory. Both situations are getting increasingly far away in history that it is less credible for Jews and blacks today to claim entitlements or special status on that basis. It’s up to the rest of us to call them on it when they try.

        If Elizabeth Warren had grown up in a trailer home on a reservation, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. Instead, she’s claiming “victimhood” based on the status of a long-dead relative.

  11. I was told my dad was the Green Lantern but I guess we now know that was a crock of shit.

    1. Good one

    2. … my dad was the a Green Lantern …

      It’s still possible.

      1. that one night in Tijuana.

      2. Seriously, there’s like eighteen trillion of them.

    3. It’s possible he had a few bastard kids before discovering that men give superior blow jobs.

  12. If it is finally determined for a fact that she has no Cherokee ancestry, will she be charged with fraud for misrepresenting herself on numerous documents and applications?

    1. Ha, ha and ha.

    2. Depends on the policies of the places she was applying to. I’m sure Harvard says employees are subject to immediate dismissal if false statements are discovered on their application. But we all know she would get a waiver.

  13. Incidentally, it should be noted that Cherokee isn’t one of the tribes that says you need a 1/32 blood quantum.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B…..membership

    If I understand that link properly, you can be 1/32 Cherokee by blood quantum and still not be considered a member of the tribe–unless you are a direct descendant of an enrollee.

    Did she bother to get enrolled? Did she bother to check to see that her ancestor was an enrollee?

    1. That would spoil the story

      1. Well if she claims 1/32 Cherokee heritage, somebody should bring up that…that’s basically immaterial.

        I suspect it’s common knowledge that–before having their land stolen after valuable stuff was found on it, the Cherokee were among the tribes that were most integrated into American society. They were farming just like their early American neighbors, etc…and the cliche is that intermarried with whites more so than other tribes.

        There used to be a sick joke involving a reply to someone who says their great grandmother was a an Indian princess–you’d ask him if she was Cherokee, and he would say, “How did you know?”

        The punchline is too horrific for me to repeat here, but suffice it to say, 9 out of 10 times, you’d be right to guess Cherokee. I suspect a very large portion of the Americans who consider themselves “white” today, with Native American ancestry, are of Cherokee lineage.

        I suspect that’s why the Cherokee don’t limit their membership by blood quantum–but that shouldn’t mean anybody with a story should be free to call themselves Cherokee for AA purposes.

        The Cherokee have set up a way for people to determine whether they’re members–and Liz Warren’s 1/32 definition isn’t it! Even if what she’s saying is true–it doesn’t mean she’s Cherokee.

        1. I suspect a very large portion of the Americans who consider themselves “white” today, with undocumented Native American ancestry, are of supposed Cherokee lineage.

    2. By the way, standard lawyer tactic–and the golden mean for progressives and liberals going back the Clinton Administration, at least…

      When they ask you a question about whether something you did was unethical, answer it with the fact that what you did was perfectly legal.

      Q: Liz Warren, did you misappropriate some good will meant to help disadvantaged Native Americans?

      A: What I did was perfectly legal.

      1. Fraud is legal?

        1. If Harvard wants to sue her, that’s not a criminal thing.

          For it to be criminal, you’d have to show that she willfully deceived somebody, and if she says the family folklore said she was Cherokee, then c’mon! What jury’s gonna throw her in jail for that?

          The ethical lapses, however, are something Harvard should take a close look at. She’s still officially on Harvard’s faculty, isn’t she?

          If Harvard wants to keep its ethical standards up, then it really needs to address this issue. How many more people are getting onto the faculty of Harvard improperly by claiming to be of an ethnicity they’re not? Is Liz Warren the only one?

          If Harvard has effectively made ethnicity an academic credential, then they need to protect the integrity of the rest of their faculty, don’t they?

          I understand if they want to wait until after the election–but even if she loses, they should ask her to resign. They may have already done so.

          1. and if she says the family folklore said she was Cherokee, then c’mon! What jury’s gonna throw her in jail for that?

            A jury that read the rest of the requirement for qualifying as a minority, and concluded that there was absolutely no way she could qualify, regardless of her family folklore or actual genetics.

            1. Harvard’s gonna have to press charges, right?

              1. Is the district attorney for Boston an elected official?

                I’m having a hard time imagining a district attorney in Boston–even if he’s appointed by the Democratic machine there–indicting a Democratic candidate on something like this just as the election’s heating up.

                If the district attorney is running for election himself this November? There’s just no way he’s she’s about to indict Elizabeth Warren over claiming to be Native American–to the best of her knowledge.

                1. The DA for Massachusetts is one Martha Coakley, who lost to Brown in the last election.

                  If a video surfaced of Elizabeth Warren molesting a 10 year old boy, I’m sure Coakley would come up with a million excuses not to charge.

                  1. Brown better be dottin’ all his i’s and crossing all his t’s.

          2. Whether it amounted to criminal fraud is beside the point. It’s still fraud. More than enough to reject her for public office, and more than enough to justify terminating her command with extreme prejudice.

            1. You act as if there is no double standard.

              1. There’s the world as it is and the world as it should be.

            2. Not every lie is fraud. For it to be fraud there has to be evidence of some ill-gotten gain that the defrauder knew would result from the lie.

              Personally, I think she should be rejected from public office because she’s a nannyish hag.

              1. I’m not awash in the details, but didn’t she seek employment as a minority?

              2. This. Who gives a fuck about the Indian crap? It’s not like Harvard would’ve hired an actual Indian if she hadn’t done this. There are plenty of better reasons that she should not ever be seriously considered for any kind of position of power.

  14. As a confirmed 1/32 Cherokee (my paternal grandmother’s great-grandmother from Oklahoma), I’m offended that someone would falsely claim my proud heritage. Us aggrieved minorities must fight back against these imposters trying to coopt our blood with pointed political commentary. Also, tomahawks.

    1. Also, tomahawks.

      Win.

  15. ASSUMING my official ancestry is true (a very big assumption, as any geneticist knows), I am WASP back 5 generations.

    I’ve met some of the other branches of the family tree and would prefer NOT to be related to the bigotted SOBs.

  16. If my family’s stories are correct, I’m blood-related to Davy Crockett and, even better, Will Rogers. So that would make me some miniscule part Indian, since Will Rogers was part Cherokee or something. Where’s my fucking Harvard chair?

    1. Ms. Warren has it.

    2. If everything I heard about my family history is true?

      We’re responsible for everything from starting the Reformation, igniting the American Revolution, inventing the oil industry in Pennsylvania, and defeating the Imperial Japanese in China!

      Incidentally, my uncle really was friends with the Dalai Lama, when the Dalai Lama was a little kid in Tibet–before he was the Dalai Lama. But the Dalai Lama used to drop by his house a lot, whenever he was in town. Makes it harder when some of the stuff they tell you really turns out to be true.

      1. Big hitter, the Lama.

        1. Yeah, and that’ll influence the story down the road, I’m sure.

          Give it a couple of generations, and the story will be that my uncle WAS the Dalai Lama.

          …which will be really interesting since the bits of us that aren’t German are English and Scottish.

  17. Nice challenge, Ron Bailey. Hope you’re not holding your breath for her to take you up on that.

  18. “A lot of genetic testing companies offer fairly reliable genetic screening tests that do well in identifying various strands of one’s ancestral ethnic heritage.”

    Really? What’s your evidence for this statement? There seems to be a lot of hyperbole in direct-to-consumer genetic testing.

    1. Yeah, I suspect that some of these places will tell you you’re descended from Jesus Christ himself if you give them enough cash.

  19. My favorite twist in the story is the pathetic attempt to link Warren’s detractors with the birthers.

    What do you mean the flimsy evidence she initially provided has been refuted? Stop questioning the story or we’ll label you as a kook!

    1. There is a weird ying and yang to the detractors and the birthers. Arguments to demonstrate that Warren is not a Cherokee do not apply to Obama, and arguments that pruves Obama is a native Kenyan do not apply to Warren.

  20. Her defense:

    “My Native American heritage is part of who I am, I’m proud of it and I have been open about it.”

    “What your people call korn, my people call caca!”

    1. *audible chuckle*

  21. Alt-text FTW, Bailey!

  22. I used to claim Native American on census/applications. I was born here, my parents were born here and their parents were born here, so that makes me native. But recently, my brother had our DNA tested in the Genome Project. I now list myself as African- American. Our ancestors left central Africa about 40,000 years ago.

    CB

  23. I would love to see which box the Queen of Consumer Finance checked on her mortgage applications.

  24. I’m supposed to be 1/32 or 1/64 Coushatta-Alabama (Creek). Don’t know for sure. Grandparents and other family lived not far from the present day tiny reservation.

    Would never claim Native American even after finding out. Not to mention it takes 1/16th to be a member of the tribe and probably live near the reservation.

    America will forever know me as Caucasian.

    1. My wife is more than that, if family history is to be believed. But the great grandfather that left the reservation at 15 in search of a better life didn’t bother to fill out the required paperwork before he skedaddled, so no bennies for her. It’s also amusing because she is the classic Aryan Ice Queen in term of looks, which causes no end of hilarity when we go back to the ancestral homelands in Vidor.

  25. This is all the inevitable outcome of a fetish for democracy and egalitarianism: We’re down to hairsplitting about the fractions of group claims we’re entitled to make, all in the name of aligning ourselves with certain tribes (literally in this case) for the sake of power.

    The whole exercise is so pathetic.

    1. You see, you can’t get one of the good jobs unless you belong to the Party, and you can’t belong to the Party unless you’ve been oppressed.

  26. My family lore says I’m 1/48 Hittite.

    They’re not very good at math.

    1. My dad was 1/16th Visigoth, so I must be 1/16th Visigoth as well…

    2. I don’t thik you’d ever be exactly 1/48th Hittite, but if you had 43 great*9 grandparents that were Hittite, you’d be 43/2048 Hittite, which is the lowest fraction rounds to 1/48th.

  27. Ron is this really possible? If it was all on the maternal edge of the chart then maybe the mitochondrial DNA would tell the story. If all on the paternal side, and she was born a boy, then the Y might tell a story. But what test is going to exclude that 1/32 contribution is American (or whatever)?

  28. So why is it if Obama once said he was Kenyan, IT’S PROOF HE’S NOT A CITIZEN!!!! but if Elizabeth Warren said she’s 1/16th Cherokee it’s just another example of a liberal lying to get better preferences?

    1. You seem to be confusing libertarians with birthers.

  29. p.s. When I was in grade school there was some sort of reparations money going to anyone who was American Indian. Suddenly all the people I know of as Latino were suddenly claiming to be Indians.

  30. Let’s stipulate she is part Cherokee. Then, so what? Only a racist would claim her genes or blood line made her special (either better or worse) than other homo sapiens with different ancestry. Nor was she raised culturally as a Cherokee so she has no claim to making Harvard any more culturally diverse than it already was. In fact, she probably diluted the diversity with her white-bread wasp so-called liberal progressive views.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.