5 Other Fake Indians Besides Elizabeth Warren

The Massachusetts Democrat is hardly alone in passing herself off as having Indian blood.


You've got to kind of feel sorry for Elizabeth Warren, the Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate who's running against short-term Republican incumbent Scott Brown (he won a special election in 2010 to replace the late Ted Kennedy). Everything seemed to be going her way and then—pffft!—it's all going to shit.

Born and raised in a working-class setting that's genuinely rare among academics and politicians, she eventually ended up teaching at Harvard after a stint at another Ivy League school, the University of Pennsylvania. Best-known as a relentless scold of the 1 Percent, she nonetheless pulled down $429,000 in salary alone in 2011 and could be worth as much as $15 million.

After claiming that most of us were too dim to understand our mortgage and car-loan payment schedules, she was tapped by the Obama administration to create the Consumer Financial Protection Agency, which was designed "to protect the financial interests of middle-class families" by regulating and restricting the types of financial products available.

Widely expected to be named the first head of that agency, she instead got thrown under the bus by the Obama adminstration when her nomination looked to be hotly contested.

The tough times have only continued. As a progressive Democrat in a Massachusetts race for Ted Kennedy's old seat, she ought to be enjoying an electoral cakewalk, but she's neck and neck with Brown in most polls at least partly due to her dubious claims of Cherokee heritage. Despite family lore, self-described "high cheekbones," supplying (possibly plagiarized) recipes for "Cold Omelets with Crab Meat" and other dishes in a cookbook called Pow Wow Chow (1984), listing herself in various ethnic professional directories, and being publicly touted by Harvard as a "woman of color," Warren has failed to produce documentation that she has any native-American ancestors. As radio host and MSNBC talking head Michael Smerconish put it in a recent column:

Warren only stopped listing herself as [native American] in 1995, just after she was hired by Harvard. But while she was at Harvard, the Crimson newspaper reported that the university's faculty included one Native American: Warren. And when she received tenure there, another Crimson story said she was the first woman with a minority background to receive tenure.

All of which would be well and good if Warren could substantiate her claim of Native American ancestry, which is a federal requirement when universities report diversity data. Thus far, she has not, and by her own admission, her connection to American Indians is remote….

Ever since this issue was raised by the Boston Herald in April, Warren has stumbled in her efforts to explain her claims of minority status. She initially sought to minimize the controversy by saying she had merely hoped "that I'd get invited to some lunch group or some—maybe some dinner conversation, and I might find some more people like me … people for whom Native American is part of their heritage and part of their hearts."

Her opponent Scott Brown says that Warren's self-designation goes "right to the integrity and character of a person" because she may have unfairly benefited from affirmative action policies in academia. Warren contests that charge, saying she never identified as native American in hiring situations.

But the question looms over the Brown-Warren race: A Cherokee genealogist is now circulating a death certificate of a family member apparently signed by Warren that further suggests the candidate is talking out of both sides of her mouth.

On the surface, the blue-eyed, blonde-haired Warren is the least convincing Indian since Paul Newman starred in Hombre. But if Warren's evasive replies to inquiries about her ancestry cost her the election, she can at least take comfort in knowing she's hardly alone in passing herself off as having Indian blood.

Here are five other memorable fake Indians from America's past.

NEXT: At Least the Tears He Cried Probably Were Real…

5. Iron Eyes Cody, a.k.a. The Crying Indian

Americans of a certain age well remember the "Keep America Beautiful" public-service announcement released around Earth Day in 1971. The spot featured an actor called Iron Eyes Cody paddling through scummy harbors and walking through landfills as the announcer reminded us that "People start pollution and people can stop it." At the dramatic end of the commercial, a kid in a passing car tosses a bag of fast-food garbage at the feet of Cody, who turns to the camera and reveals the most famous tear in commerical history. (Watch the ad.)

As tells it, Cody was born Espera DeCorti in Louisiana in 1904 to Italian-immigrant parents. Sometime in the 1920s, he started passing himself off as native American and typically dressed in mocasins and buckskins for most of his life. Though not born an Indian, he lived as one and insisted against documentation to the contrary that he was one. He married a native American woman and adopted two Indian boys. He died in 1999.

Next: Earth Day is About More Than Hacky Sacks…

4. Chief Seattle's Phony Speech

Speaking of Earth Day 1971, also susses out another form of Indian impersonation. While there was in fact a historical figure named Chief Seattle, he never gave the stirring speech that's well-known to all environmentalists and head-shop regulars. "How can you buy or sell the sky? The land?," asks Seattle in response to a government offer to purchase Suquamish territory.

Typically dated to 1854, Chief Seattle's speech is more wooden than, well, a cigar-store Indian, trading in the sort of phoney-baloney Noble Savage pieties that would make Rousseau blush:

If we sell you our land, remember that the air is precious to us, that the air shares its spirit with all the life that it supports. The wind that gave our grandfather his first breath also received his last sigh. The wind also gives our children the spirit of life. So if we sell our land, you must keep it apart and sacred, as a place where man can go to taste the wind that is sweetened by the meadow flowers.

The words are the work of screenwriter Ted Perry, who wrote the speech in 1971. Twenty years later, a version was published in a children's book (Brother Eagle, Sister Sky) that sold hundreds of thousands of copies to credulous readers. There is a record of Chief Seattle talking to government agents in 1854, but it's a paraphrase made decades after feds bought the land. According to the witness, Seattle thanked the president for his generosity in buying the land.

NEXT: If He'd Really Been an Indian, He Would Have Called Them "Little Chingachgooks" rather than "Little Eichmanns"…

3. Ward Churchill

Shortly after the 9/11 attacks in 2001, University of Colorado Professor Ward Churchill published a notorious essay in which he called office workers who died in the World Trade Center "little Eichmanns."

That brought Churchill, the chair of Colorado's ethnic studies department, no small amount of fame—and scrutiny. In 2007, he was cashiered by the school, which ruled that he had committed "academic misconduct" by plagiarizing and falsifying parts of his research.

If that wasn't bad enough, Churchill's claims to Indian heritage have been challenged by those he's named as sources. For instance, the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokees has said that he was awarded "associate membership" status precisely because he was not a member by blood. Churchill's Wikipedia page notes that in 2005, the Rocky Mountain News failed to find any Indian ancestors in his background and university officials, though acknowledging he benefitted from affirmative action, refused to check his heritage, claiming that "a person's race of ethnicity is self-proving." For his part, Churchill says that while he has native American ancestors, he "never claimed to be goddamned Sitting Bull."

Next: A Full-Employment Act for Irish, Italian, and Jewish Actors…

2. F-Troop's Hekawi Tribe

With the possible exception of Hogan's Heroes, no sitcom has ever featured a grimmer setting than F-Troop, the 1965-1967 TV series set during the brutal and genocidal Indian Wars. Joining the hapless Capt. Parmenter, scheming Sgt. O'Rourke, and mentally challenged Cpl. Agarn was the Hekawi tribe, whose principal income came from selling tchotkes to tourists.

The Hekawis were a stunningly multicultural bunch, representing all sorts of ethnicities except for actual native Americans. Chief Wild Eagle was played by the Italian-American actor Frank DeKova and his deputy chief Crazy Cat was played by Don Diamond, a Yiddish-speaking graduate of the University of Michigan. Medicine Man duties were split between legendary actor Edward Everett Horton ("Roaring Chicken") and J. Pat O'Malley, who was originally born in England.

NEXT: To Sleeper Hold, Perchance to Dream of Being a Professional Wrestler…

1. Chief Jay Strongbow

If you watched professional wrestling in the 1970s and 1980s, you probably remember Chief Jay Strongbow, the colorfully clad practitioner of the "sleeper hold" (which knocked out its victim) and the "tomahawk chop" (exactly what it sound like). Like the Eyewitness News Team format that arose at the same time, professional wrestling sought to look like an America increasingly comfortable with ethnic pride and the country's wrestling rings quickly filled with the likes of Chief Jay, Professor Toru Tanaka, the Iron Sheik, and more.

Strongbow was born Joseph Luke Scarpa in Philadelphia and, according to The New York Times, was either 79 or 83 when he died earlier this year. Chief Jay earned his greatest victories in the ring as a tag-team champion, sometimes teaming up with his "brother" Jules Strongbow (a.k.a. Frank Hill). The Strongbow warriors even defeated Misters Fuji (a Hawaiian impersonating a Japanese) and Saito for the championship belt.

As it stands, it's far from clear that Elizabeth Warren's weak claim to native American status will have much of an effect on a tight race. One poll in June found that 70 percent of voters said it wouldn't affect their choice. More recent surveys suggest that the story has had a significant impact on her chances.

Given the oddness of the story and the unflattering light it casts on Warren, it seems unlikely that it will fade anytime before the polls close in November.

Nick Gillespie is the editor in chief of and and the co-author with Matt Welch of The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What's Wrong With America, now out in paperback with a new foreword.

NEXT: Public-Private Partnerships in Puerto Rico

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  1. This just in…Kate Moss no longer hot.…..e-moss.jpg

    1. Say what you will, she will forever be the object of my lust.…

      1. Fucking wallboard mud, how does it work?

    2. Kate Moss is English. Therefore she’ll always be a “qualified hot”.

  2. Oh wow man that jsut makes a ll kinds of sense dude. I mean like seriously.

  3. Fisher Stevens in Short Circuit was another fake Indian. Also, White Indian.

    1. Let’s not forget the Hekawi tribe on F Troop.

      1. Way to not read the article, Episiarch!

        BTW, Who died and made you hegemon?

        1. RTFA?!? I don’t have time for that. I’m too busy being hegemon!

          Also, the previous hegemon named me as his successor.

  4. Is White Indian on the list?

  5. The Crying Indian on TV was a faker? I honestly had no idea at all. This really ticks me off.

    1. Meh. Indian/ Italian, they both start with I, so what’s the big deal?

      Also, +10 internets to Putin Picks on Little Girls.

      1. Yeah, what’s up with I-talians playing Redskins and Jooos playing Wops? I’ll never get over the fact Fonzie wasn’t really Italian.


  6. Hey how about that LIBOR scandal, though, eh?




    1. Start your own blog, asshole.

      1. sure, handsome – right after you finish sucking that bag of dicks.

        there’s a smart fellow.

    2. What about it? The fact that Elizabeth Warren is trying to use it to gain power and funnel even more money to her cronies?

  7. tonto was also fake kimosabi…but not his horse

    1. Sorry, but you’re wrong. It was two cats in a horse costume.

  8. Oh, for the love of all that is decent and merciful, could you PLEASE STOP POSTING PHOTOS OF ELIZABETH WARREN THAT DON’T HAVE HER TACKY ASS OUTFITS CROPPED OUT??? The image of her grinning mug sporting that Bukakke necklace a while back was torture enough.

  9. Scott Brown should make a point that she’s free to call herself whatever she wants now that the Supreme Court has ruled the Stolen Valor Act unconstitutional.

    Ridicule is in order here. On a grand scale.

    1. You want Brown to make himself look like an idiot?

  10. Does anyone else remember how the Hekawi tribe got its name ?

    They were lost, and when they came over the mountain, they said to the people living there, “Where the heck are we.” Get it ? it sounds like they said, We’re the Hekawi.

    Why do I remember sh*t like that ?

    1. Because you’re awesome!

    2. It’s also an older joke but on non-tv versions it’s Fukawi.

  11. I can’t believe Billy Jack didn’t make the list.

  12. What about Shirley MacLaine as Princess Aouda in Around The World In 80 Days?

    Sorry, Nick, but you’ve got to specify if you mean feather indians only or if dot indians count as well.

    1. feather or dot….that’s racist.
      I believe the politically correct terms are casino or quiky-mart.

  13. Ward Churchill: possibly part Native American, but 100% asshole.

    1. [citation required]*

      *for the Native American part only.

    2. Wait, 100? That’s all the percents there is!

  14. The Education of Little Tree, young boy learns life lessons from his Cherokee grandparents. And grows up to be in the Klan. And has no AmerIndian blood at all.

    Bonus: He also wrote The Outlaw Josie Wales.

  15. I always to claim to be 1/2048 Aroostook Micmac because it sounds cool and the magic burial ground in Pet Sematary was Micmac.

    1. As an H.P. Lovecraft fan, I claim 1/32 Miskatonic Indian descent.

  16. Wasn’t Vanessa Williams the voice of Pochahontas in the Disney flick? Does she have native ancestry?

    1. Wrong again:
      ne Bedard (born July 22, 1967) is an American actress best known for her portrayal of Native American characters in a variety of films. Bedard was born in Anchorage, Alaska. Her heritage is Inupiat Inuit and M?tis.‘s_Pocahontas

      1. Metis/Inuit? Sounds more Canadian to me.

    2. Nope. Irene Bedard with her genuine Inuit heritage.…..ge1112.jpg

    3. Nope. Irene Bedard with her genuine Inuit heritage.…..ge1112.jpg

      1. Whoa! Double post! There must be Agents in the Matrix!

    4. What about the chick who played Pocahotass in the porn version?

      1. You’d need a porn expert, someone steeped in deviance and perversion-like Episarch

        1. On the subject of porn, since you people seem to be experts, I remember watching a porn in my early teens movie in the 1980s that parodied the Archie comics. Reggie banging Veronica etc.

          Anyone know the film?

          1. yeesh. sorry for the grammar. Three glasses of Montepulciano in me.

  17. Mr Fuji was a real Jap(from Hawaii). His sometime tag team partner, Professor Toru Tanaka, was an ethnic Hawaiian posing as a Jap.

  18. What about the Jeep Cherokee?

    1. Isn’t that part of the Michigan tribe?

  19. Oddly enough, the Village People indian was real. Felipe Rose’s dad was a member of the Sioux tribe.

    1. Well, but Felipe was NOT an Indian. His father might have been, but HE was not.


      I mean his mother was a Puerto Rican, but he wasn’t really a Puerto Rican either, right?



  20. “Best-known as a relentless scold of the 1 Percent, she nonetheless pulled down $429,000 in salary alone in 2011 and could be worth as much as $15 million.”

    “Don’t do as I do… do what I say.”

    1. The $29K for her work, the $400K for her being “a woman of color”.

  21. Most of those claiming american aborigine blood, only know what they look like from TV. If you want to see what an “indian”looks like meet and greet a mexican worker

  22. and being publicly touted by Harvard as a “woman of color,”

    Pasty is a color?

    1. Evidently!

  23. As it stands, it’s far from clear that Elizabeth Warren’s weak claim to native American status will have much of an effect on a tight race.

    There certainly is a segment of the “progressive” population that doesn’t care nearly as much for the facts as they do the “narrative”, like those college chicks who falsely claim to be rape victims in big feminist rallies.

  24. Just for the record, the Indian pictured on page two of this article is not Chief Seattle, but rather Sitting Bull, the Hunkpapa Sioux leader who traveled with Buffalo Bill Cody, organized the multi-tribe “reunion” at Little Big Horn and died at Wounded Knee for his part in the Ghost Dance revival. In other words, he was a real American hero.

  25. Oops, should’ve written page three, not two.

  26. Iron Eyes Cody wasn’t a real Indian?

  27. “For his part, Churchill says that while he has native American ancestors, he “never claimed to be goddamned Sitting Bull.””

    No. He is and always has been Big Chief Standing Bullsh*t.

    The amazing thing about the Churchill case is that the University was sufficiently embarrassed by his misconduct as a scholar that they actually fired his ass. Reliably controversial tenured jackasses all over the country probably get all cold and shivery just thinking about it.

  28. Widely expected to be named the first head of that agency, she instead got thrown under the bus by the Obama adminstration when her nomination looked to be hotly contested.

    1. Being totally ignorant of the American political process must make it easier for you to understand things like this.

  29. Glad Nick Gillespie is using his bully pulpit and simian reasoning skills to address topical libertarian issues.

    Like what race Elizabeth Warren is.

    1. More like “how Warren lied about her race”, which should concern people who care about liars.

      1. Precisely. This highlights the confluence of two widespread ideas; that there should be special rewards for belonging to certain groups, and that ethnic identity is a matter of choice. I suspect that there are a lot of people in certain subcultures (academia being an example) who simply don’t understand why anybody actually cares that Ms. Warren may have benefitted from a claim to an ethnicity for which she had no factual basis. They not only accept that she could be Native American solely because she felt like one, but are ok with her benefitting from that ‘feeling’.

        1. It’s only contemptible lying when “right wingers*” do it.

          *anyone to the right of Liz Warren,

  30. Actually, Paul Newman was a white person raised by natives in Hombre. One of my favorite westerns, though marred by some horrendous special effects – the shooting of the one bad guy at the stage coach with the weird blood spatter. Richard Boone was stellar in it. Who remembers Have Gun/Will Travel???

  31. Is it true that Elizabeth Warren was the minority woman whose appointment satisfied Derek (sp?) Bell’s famous strike demands back in the 80s?

  32. John Russell (Paul Newman) wasn’t an Indian, he was a white man raised by the Indians. C’mon Nick. Hombre is one of my favorite westerns.

  33. I am 1/8 Cherokee but I doubt seriously I could ever prove it so I don’t worry about it. I don’t get asked but I do tell on occasion. I never had special privileges nor gov’t money, maybe I am missing out! *lol*

    1. It’s not at all hard to prove with a DNA test.

      1. The DNA tests aren’t 100%, they will reveal some shared characteristics but aren’t authoratative. I know of no Tribe that accepts them for enrollment.

  34. the Crimson newspaper reported that the university’s faculty included one Native American: Warren. And when she received tenure there, another Crimson story said she was the first woman with a minority background to receive tenure.

    1. He was leader of the Chuptzah tribe, a fierce group of Native Americans known for their fighting techniques involving pies, exploding candy and Potemkin village style deception. They were also famous for sponsoring outdoor jazz concerts, and invented a working limousine decades ahead of their European counterparts.

  35. Kind of a crappy article. The polls were the same before this crap as after, this isn’t affecting the election. Also, the fact that Scott Brown won in the first place shows that, although it is Teddy Kennedy’s state, it isn’t as Liberal as people think. Also, isn’t there a Libertarian candidate in this race?

  36. The Hekawi may not be real but the Fekawi are!

  37. Agency, which was designed “to protect the…..-3_20.html financial interests of middle-class families” by regulating and restricting the types of financial products available.

  38. Elizabeth Warren tells Indians, “If it weren’t for Government, you wouldn’t have your reservations.”

  39. Elizabeth Warren and Me: Heap Big % Injun? Well, Yes.
    So Elizabeth Warren has not documented her Cherokee and Delaware ancestry! And so the Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation (pictured on TV) has been declared by Scott Brown not to look red.

    Grandma Parker was half Indian, I thought, because she was so very dark and Indian looking. Elderly great aunts in 1990 were still lamenting being off the Indian rolls. Grandma Parker had a white Scots father. Yet this Scot bowed his head before meals and said the Lord’s Prayer in Choctaw. But she was also part Cherokee, who know how much? The Glenns and Tuckers were party to the Jarndyce vs Jarndyce trial of Indian Territory and Oklahoma Territory–a joke to those who got on the rolls early and often, a joke even in a history published the year after statehood. The good part, for documentation, was that cousins of mine testified in the 1880s and afterward before the Dawes Commission on what they remembered about Indian ancestors in the 1830s and earlier.

    I no longer say I am at least an eighth Indian, but I know that being part Indian was a defining condition of my early life. Because of Grandma Parker and what I understood about her I identified with her Choctaw and Cherokee ancestry.

    I’m with Liz.

    Scott Brown, I have blue eyes and look as white as you, but oh my soul, and oh my body, they are part Choctaw and part Cherokee. Out of the Senate, Scott Brown! Make way for my Cousin Liz.
    Posted by Hershel Parker at 7:09 AM

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