Democratic Senate Candidate Elizabeth Warren has been all over the newspapers the past several days after a revelation that Harvard Law School identified her as a Native American faculty member in the mid-1990s. The claim to Native American status came as a shock to the media and the Scott Brown campaign.
Warren contends that she was unaware of the designation by HLS, and that it played no role in her hiring. Warren asserts that her Native American heritage is family lore, and based on what she has been told not any specific documentation she is aware of.
Subsequently, David Bernstein discovered that in annual reports by the Association of American Law Schools (AALS) from 1986-1994, Warren was listed as a minority faculty member. Since AALS bases such information solely on what faculty self-reports, the information must have come from Warren herself. The AALS directories, however, only identify whether the faculty member is “minority,” not what minority status is claimed.
There seems to be some uncertainty in news reports as to whether Warren filled out the AALS forms, and if so, whether she identified as Native American, with the Brown campaign demanding that she “come clean.”
I spoke this afternoon with Alethea Harney, Warren’s campaign press secretary, and confirmed several key details.
Harney acknowledged that the minority status reported by Warren to AALS was Native American, and that while Warren does not remember the precise forms, she believes there was a box or other designation to be selected for Native American.
The AALS reporting was the only time Warren self-identified as Native American as far as Warren currently is aware, according to Harney, and Warren never has joined any Native American groups, or asserted any tribal memberships.
According to Harney, Warren’s Native American status did not come up in connection with her hiring by HLS, and in fact she was recruited and did not apply.
Harney said that Warren does not have any records documenting her Native American heritage, but that is being researched. Harney said that the campaign has been told that there is no good genealogical documentation with regard to tribes from Oklahoma, unlike tribes from some other areas. Harney did indicate that the tribal connection is believed to be on Warren’s grandmother’s side of the family.
Harney was unaware of whether Warren ever claimed Native American status on any college
law or law school applications, and would not comment on how HLS ended up listing Warren as Native American.