Op-Ed on Elizabeth Warren at Protean Mag

I live-tweeted the recent Native American Presidential Forum, and after receiving numerous press inquiries–including for this piece in the Times–I decided to put some of my thoughts together in a more cohesive and personal way. Here is an op-ed on Warren’s almost-apology that Protean Mag published.

The title that I wanted to go with, actually, was “Apology Not Accepted”. But I’m glad we went with something more descriptive. For more information on Warren’s race-shifting and false claims to Cherokee heritage, see the syllabus I worked on with Cherokee activist/writers Rebecca Nagle and Adrienne Keane, published by Critical Ethnic Studies.

From the op-ed:

Warren vaguely admitted wrongdoing. But she did not say what she did or why, quickly pivoting to her strong suit, public policy. This is a good strategy for courting people who wanted to hear her admit something. However, it doesn’t address the central issue at stake—Cherokee sovereignty.

And later:

Despite having put forward a broad structural plan for honoring trust and treaty obligations, she has yet to understand how she is situated within the structures of white supremacy from which she has benefited—and yet to demonstrate that she can be trusted. Trust comes with daring to put the ethical obligations of mutual respect before politics. This is what being in good relations means. As a Cherokee, that is what matters to me. I cannot help but ask if Elizabeth Warren is actually demonstrating that she is in good relations with us.



2 thoughts on “Op-Ed on Elizabeth Warren at Protean Mag

  1. MrYan says:

    What room do you leave her?
    A person, with political capital, who is favorable to your positions.
    Yet; nothing short of full capitulation will do?

    I mean her family tale was she was the “Indian” in the childhood game, not the Cowboy. She identified with you, erroneously (?), as an Cherokee. And took pride in it. That is her unforgivable transgression to the Cherokee people. Really?

    She is the best vehicle for change the Indian Nations will have in front of them for quite some time. She identifies with you!!. If you continue flog her mercilessly you play into the hands of those who are truly the enemy of the Cherokee nation. You help to make her an unacceptable candidate–as they will use you-not caring about your cause at all-to take her down.

    Where does that leave the Cherokee nation? A great moral victory over the elite “white supremacy machine”? Perhaps, but you help lay on the waste heap a political figure who could have helped tremendously to improve the lot sovereign Indian nations. No other candidate on the political spectrum holds as favorable positions as Senator Warren to your causes. And you know fact that too.

    As a side note, you also fall victim to the notion that DNA matters. Tribes did not have a blood test. Race played not part of it. You should know that. A tribe is not a race. Membership rules can vary, and do.

    If you insist that her DNA is insufficient you will limit future generations of “Cherokee” to claim native American heritage or standing simply because in time we all get “watered down”; even on a reservation.

    My mother in law is a member, documented on the rolls, of the Yankton Souix Nation. She has about the same amount of “Indian blood” as Senator Warren. She was called a dirty little indian as a child (1/6th ), and could not help identify as one. Go figure.

    Now are you going to tell her she is not sufficiently indian for your liking?

    For shame for shame Senator Warren for having the audacity to identify, an empathize, as a Cherokee. It is in a word; Unforgivable.

    The greater shame is the Cherokee nation distilling down the essence of being a “Cherokee” to that of a DNA test. Your political short sightedness is amazing.

  2. JMPierce says:

    First of all, the Cherokee Nation does not allow or accept DNA tests for tribal citizenship. That is why her taking one was ridiculous and harmful. Secondly, we do not have a reservation, because the federal government broke up our communally held land into allotments in the 19th century, which allowed people like Elizabeth Warren and her ancestors to steal, squat on, and swindle Indigenous land for themselves. Oh, and when that land was broken up into allotments, the federal government took a census, called the Dawes Rolls, of Cherokee people, Freedmen, and intermarried white people. Warren’s family is not on that list because they are not Cherokee, and never were. That is what I am saying. She has no connection to the tribe not because she has no DNA–which is irrelevant–but because she does not fulfill the requirements for membership. As to the question of her identifying with me, that she “played the Indian” in cowboys and Indians (really? that’s the image you want to use?), I’m sorry, but this just proves the point that she undermines Cherokee self-determination by taking for herself that which was not hers to take. She was never one of us, and yet she claimed us. We have never claimed her in return. This is a bigger, more fundamental question of how we are able to uphold our sovereign rights to self-determination. To belonging.

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