The Corner

Don’t Blame Trump for Warren’s Unsupported Native Heritage Claims

You may have heard an objection during Donald Trump’s press conference yesterday, when he called Senator Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas.”

As [Trump] spoke, Nicole Robertson shouted from the audience: “That’s very offensive!”

Robertson, 41, is a member of the Cree nation and was credentialed for the news conference because she is a freelance writer who focuses on native issues. 

The Washington Post quotes Robertson after the press conference:

“It’s absolutely ludicrous in this day and age that we’re recognized as high cheekbones, the stereotypes of what you would see in ‘Dances with Wolves,’ ” Robertson said, referencing the 1990 movie. “Pocahontas — it’s so overdone. Like, come on. We’re living in a day and age now where that whole image and the romanticism around it and her portrayal — really it wasn’t a good story if you look at the history of Pocahontas.”

Robertson said that she would also be offended if Warren did in fact misrepresent her ancestry — but that it doesn’t excuse Trump’s use of “Pocahontas.”

If you’re upset at a “high cheekbone” stereotype, don’t blame Trump for quoting what Elizabeth Warren said; blame the senator for citing it as incontrovertible evidence.

 This was her argument in May 2012:

“I still have a picture on my mantel and it is a picture my mother had before that – a picture of my grandfather. And my Aunt Bea has walked by that picture at least a 1,000 times remarked that he – her father, my Papaw — had high cheek bones like all of the Indians do. Because that is how she saw it and your mother got those same great cheek bones and I didn’t. She that thought was the bad deal she had gotten in life.”

Warren’s “Pocahontas” nickname isn’t mocking Native Americans; it’s mocking the implausibility of the senator’s claim.

From The Atlantic, during the time of the original controversy:

Elizabeth Warren is not a citizen of the Cherokee Nation.

Elizabeth Warren is not enrolled in the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.

And Elizabeth Warren is not one of the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee.

Nor could she become one, even if she wanted to.

Despite a nearly three week flap over her claim of “being Native American,” the progressive consumer advocate has been unable to point to evidence of Native heritage except for a unsubstantiated thirdhand report that she might be 1/32 Cherokee. Even if it could be proven, it wouldn’t qualify her to be a member of a tribe: Contrary to assertions in outlets from The New York Times to Mother Jonesthat having 1/32 Cherokee ancestry is “sufficient for tribal citizenship,” “Indian enough” for “the Cherokee Nation,” and “not a deal-breaker,” Warren would not be eligible to become a member of any of the three federally recognized Cherokee tribes based on the evidence so far surfaced by independent genealogists about her ancestry.

We can argue how big a role the claim of Native American heritage helped Warren in her career, but in a world where Rachel Dolezal is a national controversy, it’s bizarre that the entire ethno-authenticity industrial-complex gives Warren a pass for claiming an identity that is unsupported by evidence. It’s as if Warren “self-identifies” as Native American, and it’s considered somewhere between a social faux pas and a hate crime to point out that she isn’t.

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