Harold Monteau: Elizabeth Warren and claims of Indian ancestry
Posted: Thursday, June 21, 2012
"It has been interesting to follow the media frenzy with regard to Elizabeth Warren and her use of “self-suspected” Indian ancestry to advance her career in academia. The true relevance of the discussion is whether she was privileged to claim Indian ancestry in acquiring an employment or education benefit and the failure of the institutions involved in not requiring her to prove her claim. This failure exposes an issue that many institutions of higher learning avoid by claiming that to inquire into proof of the claim somehow violates equal education and employment opportunity as set forth in the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It is ironic (if not malpractice) that the very statute that contains an exemption for “Indian preference” is being used to discriminate against people who can prove they are Indian in favor of people who merely claim being Indian. Leaving the 1964 Civil Rights Act exemption aside, there is also an independent basis in federal Indian law for the institution to require proof of the claim.
University Legal Counsel has ignored the statutory exemption and have ignored the body of federal Indian law which defines “Indian” status of being a political/legal status rather than race. These misrepresentations are used as an excuse to forbid inquiry into the factual/legal basis of an applicant’s claim. Title IV of the Civil Rights Act sets forth an exemption for Indian Tribes, and even private employers who are based “on or near” Indian country. The exemption allows employers to apply Indian preference and even “tribal” preference."
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