Suzan Shown Harjo: Uproar over 'Cherokee' Elizabeth Warren

"What’s up, you ask, with the “Native American” uproar in the Elizabeth Warren-Scott Brown race for U.S. senator from Massachusetts? The politics part is easily understood; the Indian part is a heavier lift, involving legalities of Native nations and tribal citizenship. You don’t have to be a lawyer—only a reader—to understand the issues.

The Brown camp says Warren said she was Native American to get a job teaching at Harvard Law School in the early 1990s, when the university needed to defend its diversity record. Warren says she didn’t know Harvard listed her that way, but she listed herself as Native American in 1986-1995 legal directories, “because I thought I might be invited to meetings where I might meet more people who had grown up like I had grown up.”

Born and raised in Oklahoma City, Warren cites her grandfather’s “high cheekbones” and a “family that has talked about…tribes, since I’ve been a little girl.” She claims Cherokee and Delaware; a genealogist in Boston says she’s 1/32 Cherokee. A tribal citizen must have at least one tribal citizen ancestor. Her ancestors are not on the Cherokee Nation citizenship rolls, which included the Delaware Tribe throughout Warren’s life, until 2009."

Get the Story:
Suzan Shown Harjo: What’s the Deal with Elizabeth Warren, Cherokee? (Indian Country Today 5/15)

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