The objections of Cherokees to Elizabeth Warren’s false claims of Cherokee ancestry have made the news for weeks, first when genealogist Twila Barnes demanded that Warren tell the truth, and just yesterday with the formation of a new group of Cherokees demanding that Warren stop claiming Cherokee ancestry.
Warren’s response has been to repeat her mantra that she is proud of her Native American heritage, as she did last night to The Boston Globe:
Growing up, my mother and my grandparents and my aunts and uncles often talked about our family’s Native American heritage. As a kid, I never thought to ask them for documentation – what kid would? – but that doesn’t change the fact that it is a part of who I am and part of my family heritage.
Now non-Cherokee American Indians are getting involved.
As detailed by Rob Capriccioso at Indian Country Today Media Network, there is growing discontent not only with Warren’s claims of Cherokee heritage but her refusal to speak with American Indian media outlets, Elizabeth Warren Avoids American Indian Media:
As the controversy continues to swirl around U.S. Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren’s self-reported Cherokee ancestry, she has dodged several interview requests from the Native American press….
In the meantime, throughout the month of May, Warren continued to do interviews with the mainstream and local press, including national appearances on MSNBC.
On May 25, after several more requests from ICTMN, Harney responded by e-mail, “Thanks for your request(s)! I will keep you posted. Thanks for understanding. Have a wonderful weekend.”
To date, Warren has done no interviews with the American Indian press. There are dozens of tribal papers and national Native news outlets, including well-respected Cherokee outlets, that she could have reached out to in order to help calm the controversy and alleviate Native concerns about both her background and its impact on Indian citizens.
As detailed in the article, the outrage goes beyond the Cherokee community:
“If she really wanted to include her Native heritage in this election, she should be talking to Native people through our Native media groups, so we can see what she has to say,” said Rhonda LeValdo-Gayton, president of the Native American Journalists Association. “It would also open up the communication lines so she can listen to what issues tribes need help on, get acquainted with the people, and to learn personal stories. I know personally, I am always willing to give an interview with our tribal media groups, do stories, whatever is needed to get those stories out there.”
LeValdo, an Acoma Pueblo citizen, has been taking note of complaints that Warren has not done interviews with the Native press to date.
“Like others before her and probably after her, she uses Native status for her own benefit,” added Ronnie Washines, past president of NAJA.
“Tribes can adopt presidents, adopt actors, and even allow people to have great-great grandparents who are Native, but call upon [the adoptees] to open up to Native media [and it] only compels them to revert to selective access,” said Washines, a Yakama Nation reporter and citizen.
Lori Edmo-Suppah, a Shoshone-Bannock tribal citizen and reporter, said that if Warren is Native, as she claims, “it seems the Native press would be the first she would want to do interviews with.”
Added Edmo-Suppah, “Mainstream media rarely understands the issue of Native identity, so it’s no surprise she seeks them first. It’s time she be honest about her background.”
Capriccioso is an enrolled citizen of the Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians, as are his kids. Capriccioso sent the following e-mail to Alethea Harney, Warren’s campaign press secretary, demanding an apology from Warren for her misstatements as to her heritage:
In Elizabeth Warren’s latest statement on her ancestry http://www.boston.com/news/politics/2012/senate/specials/elizabeth_warren_statement/ , she says the following:
“Growing up, my mother and my grandparents and my aunts and uncles often talked about our family’s Native American heritage. As a kid, I never thought to ask them for documentation – what kid would? – but that doesn’t change the fact that it is a part of who I am and part of my family heritage.”
However, Native American children often know that to be a tribal citizen, documentation is needed. My own daughter, age 3, knows that for her to be a tribal citizen, she needs an enrollment card, which she received after she was born after our tribe enrolled her.
Why did candidate Warren make this mis-statement? Will she apologize for it?
Washington D.C. Bureau Chief
Indian Country Today Media Network
Capriccioso issued the following statement to me in response to a question regarding how the American Indian community is reacting:
As a working journalist, I can tell you that many Natives know that Warren has multiple problems with the statements she has made regarding her self-reported Cherokee ancestry, and many want her to correct them. Her high cheekbones recollection, her failed Native networking while in academia and odd explanations of it, the possibility that Harvard promoted her as a Native professor without any documentation perhaps taking a position away from another Native candidate who was more in touch with their roots, and the attempts by her campaign to paint Indian concerns as a non-issues have all been problematic.
An early apology by Warren may have sufficed. My sense is that at multiple levels we are beyond that point.