Cole DeLuane: Elizabeth Warren and the politics of genocide

"For countless millennial Natives, many of the prescripts of their respective communities are the customs of another country. To be sure, the anthropological erosion is far from complete, and the celebration of tribal tongues and rituals ensures the preservation of indigenous histories for epochs to come. However, it is not unreasonable to wonder if such ways will eventually become, pragmatically speaking, obsolete. After all, the vaults of the past are lousy with dead languages and ruined cities.

So, when prominent public luminaries like Elizabeth Warren, the Democratic nominee for Senate from Massachusetts, popularize a problematic interpretation of racial legacy as an abstract constructs assumed at will, they hasten a Native cultural corrosion originally instigated by formal early twentieth-century American government policies of acculturation. Although Professor Warren has issued few public statements on the subject of her claims to Cherokee heritage other than to promote the validity of superficial racial profiling and improvise a dubious yarn about the circumstances of her parents’ marriage, she continues to simultaneously maximize and minimize the significance of her hypothetical roots. In June, she declared that she would be the “first Senator from Massachusetts with a Native background,” but then subsequently refused to meet with four Cherokee women who had traveled to Boston to request an audience with her and alleged, absent any evidence, that they were financially motivated right-wing operatives enlisted to derail her candidacy. All the while, she has declined to engage with the Native media apparatus, but has consented to interviews with the Boston Globe and Time, in which she derided the concerns of her Indian critics as “non-substantive.” In Warren’s model of ethnic distinction, neither practical experience nor community affiliation applies; one can simply appropriate the mantle of Cherokee lineage at personal discretion. Per this formulation, the disparities between discrete cultures are meaningless, and Professor Warren is effectively championing a subtle variety of spiritual genocide."

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Cole DeLaune: Elizabeth Warren and the Politics of Spiritual Genocide (Indian Country Today 8/21)

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