Over 200 Native Americans sign letter urging Warren to retract ancestry claims

More than 200 Cherokees and other Native Americans have signed onto a letter urging Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) to unequivocally retract claims that she previously made about having Native American ancestry.

The letter, which was organized by Cherokee Nation citizens Joseph M. Pierce, Daniel Heath Justice, Rebecca Nagle and Twila Barnes, calls on the Democratic presidential candidate to “fully address the harm you have caused,” arguing that her past claims “have normalized white people claiming to be Native.”

“Your actions do not exist in a vacuum but are part of a long and violent history,” the letter reads, citing a Los Angeles Times report that found more than $800 million in federal contracts reserved for minorities have been allocated to members of groups with suspicious ties to Native tribes. The Times first reported the Cherokee Nation’s new request of Warren. 

The letter goes on to argue that “as the most public example of this behavior,” Warren needs “to clearly state that Native people are the sole authority on who is — and who is not — Native.”

Warren for decades claimed that her family history included Cherokee ancestry. She once said she was “American Indian” on a registration card for the state bar of Texas, and before announcing a White House bid in 2018, she released the results of a DNA test that found she was between 1/32 and 1/1,024 Native American.

She has since apologized for claiming to be Native American and disclosing the results of the test in light of criticism from some Native American groups.

In an extensive 12-page letter released on Tuesday night, Warren acknowledged that “she was wrong to have identified as a Native American, and, without qualification or excuse, I apologize.” 

She emphasized her pledged efforts to support Native Americans if elected president, citing her plan to protect tribal lands and address the “epidemic of sexual assaults and murders committed against Native women.”

The authors of the letter told the Times in an email that her apology was “vague and inadequate.” Nagle reiterated this criticism on Twitter, stating: “Our letter never asked Warren to apologize; we asked her to repair the harm she caused.”

“What we’re seeking is not forgiveness, but public education about Cherokee identity & sovereignty from some one who has created a great deal of public confusion,” she said. “Not because our personal feelings are at stake, but because the future and wellbeing of Native Nations are at stake.”

Warren’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for further comment from The Hill. 

The letter from the Cherokee Nation arrives as Warren struggles to gain a footing in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary. Despite gaining popularity early on in the campaign, she has struggled in the first three voting states. South Carolina becomes the fourth state to hold its primary on Saturday. 

The controversy over her Native American ancestry claims has prompted continued attacks from President Trump and other Republicans, with Trump regularly referring to her with the pejorative term “Pocahantas.” 

When Warren first released her DNA test in October 2018, Cherokee Nation Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. said that it was “inappropriate and wrong.” He also noted that tribes set their own legal requirements for citizenship.

Tags Donald Trump Elizabeth Warren Native Americans Warren campaign

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