Progressive Democrat Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts once claimed she was a “Native American.” On Monday, the Boston Globe reported that she released the results of a DNA test to support her claims of American Indian ancestry. According to the newspaper, the DNA report was prepared by Stanford University genetics professor Carlos D. Bustamante who found "strong evidence" that it included Native American ancestry dating between six and 10 generations ago.

Bustamante’s report concluded:

“While the vast majority of the individual’s ancestry is European, the results strongly support the existence of an unadmixed Native American ancestor in the individual’s pedigree, likely in the range of 6-10 generations ago.”

At first, the Boston Globe indicated that this would mean that Warren 1/512th Native American (0.19 percent). However, later reports corrected the figure to 1/1024th Native American. Warren has said that her great-great grandmother was at least part Native American. But the test results may also mean that her Native American heritage dates back 10 generations ago. 

The Boston Globe had to issue a correction to its story on Warren’s purported Native American heritage, acknowledging that their math was incorrect. “Correction: Due to a math error, a story about Elizabeth Warren misstated the ancestry percentage of a potential 10th generation relative. It should be 1/1,024,” the Globe noted in its correction.

Noting the correction, the Republican National Committee linked to a story in the New York Times that showed that the largest genetic profile study published at that time found determined that Americans of European ancestry had genomes that on average were 0.18 percent Native American. Scientists have found that African-American had genes that were only 73.2 percent African, while 24 percent of their DNA was European, and 0.8 percent came from Native Americans. Latinos were found to average 65.1 percent European, 18 percent Native American, and 6.2 percent African genomes. European-Americans were found to average 98.6 percent European, .19 percent African, and .18 Native American genomes.

On Sunday, Warren called on President Donald Trump to pay $1 million to her favorite charity. Having mocked Warren since the 2016 election year for her claims of Native American ancestry, Trump dared “Pocahontas” Warren to prove her claim. At a Montana rally, Trump said that if he debates Warren during the 2020 presidential race, "We will very gently take that kit, and we will slowly toss it, hoping it doesn't hit her and injure her arm, even though it only weighs probably 2 ounces." Trump continued, saying, "And we will say, 'I will give you a million dollars to your favorite charity, paid for by Trump, if you take the test and it shows you're an Indian.'" Finally, he said, "And let's see what she does, right? I have a feeling she will say 'no,' but we'll hold that for the debates!"

On Monday, Warren tweeted her demand for Trump’s cash. “By the way, @realDonaldTrump: Remember saying on 7/5 that you’d give $1M to a charity of my choice if my DNA showed Native American ancestry? I remember – and here's the verdict.” She called on him to donate the money to the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center. 

Speaking to reporters on the South Lawn of the White House, Trump said "Who cares?" in response to Warren’s DNA test. Later on Monday, Trump told the media that his offer applied only if Warren wins the Democrat party’s nomination for the 2020 presidential race. "I'll only do it if I can test her personally," the president added. "That will not be something I will enjoy."

Warren has said that she will "take a hard look" at running in the 2020 race once the November midterm elections are out of the way. Going increasingly on the offensive against Trump, Warren is putting together a national political operation and assisting fellow Democrats in down-ballot races.  A CNN poll showed that Warren is favored by 8 percent of voters. In the crowded field of potential Democrat candidates for 2020, Warren is behind former Vice President Joe Biden, and  fellow Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Kamala Harris, D-Calif.

Most Native American tribes require claimants to Native American identity have a percentage of at least 1/16th Native American ancestry to claim Native American heritage. Warren specifically claimed to be Cherokee, but her DNA test proved that this was not true. She also once claimed that because her parents eloped because her paternal grandparents were racist and did not approve of their son’s “Cherokee” fiancee. Genealogical research and newspaper clippings that reported on her parents’ wedding did not appear to support claims of ostracism.

 In response, the Cherokee Nation issued a statement that DNA tests are useless in determining tribal citizenship and inappropriate. 

The statement by Cherokee Nation Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. in full:

"A DNA test is useless to determine tribal citizenship. Current DNA tests do not even distinguish whether a person's ancestors were indigenous to North or South America. Sovereign tribal nations set their own legal requirements for citizenship, and while DNA tests can be used to determine lineage, such as paternity to an individual, it is not evidence for tribal affiliation. Using a DNA test to lay claim to any connection to the Cherokee Nation or any tribal nation, even vaguely, is inappropriate and wrong. It makes a mockery out of DNA tests and its legitimate uses while also dishonoring legitimate tribal governments and their citizens, who ancestors are well documented and whose heritage is prove. Senator Warren is undermining tribal interests with her continued claims of tribal heritage."

Casting further doubt on Warren's claims, the Boston Globe reported that researchers have no Native American DNA available for genetic testing “because Native American leaders have asked tribal members not to participate in genetic databases.” In order to test for Native American ancestry, genetic researchers therefore must use samples from other parts of the world.

Warren told the Associated Press in 2012, while she was still a Harvard Law School professor, that her parents told her of her purported Native American heritage. Warren was raised in Oklahoma and once said that her mother ‘‘was part Cherokee and part Delaware.’’ She told the wire service that the dispute over her parent’s marriage and her mother’s supposed ancestry was ‘‘something my brothers and I grew up with. We always understood the difference, between our father’s family and our mother’s family.’’ Bolstering her claims to Native American ancestry, Warren contributed recipes to a Native American cookbook entitled “Pow Wow Chow: A Collection of Recipes From Families of the Five Civilized Tribes: Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Seminole.” In the 1984 book, which was edited by her cousin, her name is listed as “Elizabeth Warren, Cherokee.”

Also, Warren also listed herself as a member of a racial minority in a legal directory published by the Association of American Law Schools from 1986 to 1995. She has never answered clearly why she stopped the self-identification as a Native American. In federal forms filed by the law schools at Harvard University and University of Pennsylvania where she employed, she was also identified as a Native American. When Harvard Law School was being criticized in 1986 for an alleged lack of ethnic diversity, a person speaking for the school told the Harvard Crimson that Warren was Native American. Meanwhile, a video touting Warren’s supposed Native American heritage can be found at her eponymous website.

In a Wall Street Journal article titled “Did Elizabeth Warren just kill identity politics?” writer James Freeman contended that if the Massachusetts senator is “now a person of color then the term has no meaning.” Freeman concluded, “Before facing President Trump in a 2020 debate, Sen. Warren will first need to win over the Democrats who vote in presidential primaries. If these voters accept her as a Native American then logically it suggests that most if not all Americans can also claim to be members of groups that have historically suffered discrimination. We’re all minorities now? This column thinks it would be wonderful if politicians decided to stop separating Americans by race but doubts Ms. Warren can sell this to Democratic party activists.”

Legacy media responded to the news of Warren’s DNA test. The Washington Post, for example, ran an opinion article titled, “Yes, Elizabeth Warren has Native ancestry. No, that won’t stop Trump’s racist attacks.” CNN reported that the senator has consistently offered “family stories” as evidence of her purported Native American heritage. CNN cited the conclusions offered in Prof. Bustamante’s analysis of Warren’s DNA: “ “In short, the results pretty much agree with what Warren has been arguing for years. ‘I am very proud of my heritage,’ she told NPR in 2012. ‘These are my family stories. This is what my brothers and I were told by my mom and my dad, my mammaw and my pappaw. This is our lives. And I'm very proud of it.’”

While it was never codified in federal law, the so-called “one-drop rule” was historically used to classify persons along racial lines for social and legal purposes in the United States. It holds that any person with any visible characteristics typical of sub-Saharan Africans or even one ancestor of that ancestry is considered black. 



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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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