The question which has not been asked yet by the media, but needs to be.
Elizabeth Warren has no documentation that she is Cherokee, Delaware or any other Native American tribe. The initial claim that Warren was 1/32 Cherokee was withdrawn by the New England Historic Genealogical Society as lacking evidence. Census and other records prove that her parents and grandparents recorded themselves as white. And so on, and so on.
Instead of the type of evidence normally drawn upon by genealogists, Warren recounts supposed family lore.
Yet prior to being called out for listing herself as Native American for professional purposes, Warren never publicly told such lore. When Warren did give extensive interviews about her upbringing prior to this past May, she didn’t mention Native American family lore. Yet now that alleged family lore was so much a part of Warren’s upbringing that she refuses to back away from it because it is such a fundamental part who she is and how she was raised.
Warren’s family lore consists of two stories.
First, Warren has told the story of her Aunt Bee commenting on how Warren’s ancestors had high cheekbones, supposedly just like “all the Indians do.” Yet all evidence points to her Aunt Bee as being White, and Warren listed her Aunt Bee as White on her death certificate even though American Indian was a choice.
Second, Warren says, with increasing ferocity, that her parents had to elope because her father’s family did not approve of him marrying her mother because she was Native American. The problem continued, according to Warren, throughout the marriage and even was an issue at Warren’s mother’s funeral in 1995.
Yet Warren’s mother was listed in censuses both prior and after the marriage as White, and also on her death certificate. There is no evidence of the elopement or family problems other than Warren’s say so.
Warren has constructed a narrative of Native American family lore based on what she was told by people all of whom are dead.
There are other family members, however, who would have the same second-hand knowledge as Warren.
Yet not one of them has stepped forward to back her up. To the contrary, in 2002 Warren’s own adult nephew, who would have been in a position to know about family heritage because he was researching Warren’s mother’s genealogy, described family claims of being Native American as rumor.
I realize that a substantial portion of the Massachusetts electorate seems not to care that Warren falsely described herself as Native American, perhaps believing that she was misled by her family lore.
But what if Warren has told a tall tale about that family lore? What if Warren’s impassioned stories about her parents having to elope and there being problems at her mother’s funeral because her mother was Native American were false or exaggerated?
Did any of Warren’s relatives claim Native American status as she did? Was Warren the only one in the family to report herself as Native American to the federal government? Does Warren stand alone in her family in claiming that being Native American is a part of who she is?
Family lore wouldn’t make Elizabeth Warren Cherokee and wouldn’t justify her claim to be Native American for professional purposes at strategic times in her career. But it is the explanation Warren has given, and it is an explanation as to which the people who know are dead, and the people who know second-hand aren’t talking.