Image 01 Image 03

Should Elizabeth Warren be in “cultural appropriation” exhibit at Brown Univ. museum?

Should Elizabeth Warren be in “cultural appropriation” exhibit at Brown Univ. museum?

I stopped by Brown University’s Haffenreffer Museum on my way out of town after the Netroots Nation conference. They currently have an exhibit focused on American Indian representation in America entitled “Thawing the Frozen Indian.” The stated purpose of this exhibit “is confronting the complex, and often painful, history of cultural appropriation in order to foster conversation.”

After the American Indian Caucus panel at Netroots brushed off my question about Elizabeth Warren’s cultural appropriation of the Native American label, I was interested to see how an exhibit about such actions would treat the subject. Elizabeth Warren falsely has claimed to be Native American despite mounting evidence to the contrary.

With news today that Harvard alum Margo Kickingbird DeLaune has accused Elizabeth Warren of “ethnic fraud,” it appears the Netroots American Indian Caucus’s dismissal of Warren’s cultural appropriation isn’t a view shared by all Native Americans:

We should nevertheless hold her [Warren] accountable for  the damage she has wrought—by either crassly capitalizing on the plight of the  American Indian or indulging in the fetishization of a frequently caricaturized  minority group….

Here is a placard from the exhibit, which includes the quote, “Playing Indian has a long history in the United States, all the way back to those original tea parties in Boston, and in no way is it better than minstrel shows or dressing up in blackface”:

Perhaps Elizabeth Warren, if she’s still in town, will find the time to visit the exhibit. It runs through the summer.


Donations tax deductible
to the full extent allowed by law.


full-throated support | June 12, 2012 at 9:20 am

How is it inappropriate appropriation for Elizabeth Warren to feel like she’s Indian?

Does Scott Pilgrim vs. The World disrespect the Mayflower religious dissenters, or perhaps honor them similar to John Bunyan’s work? The movie was well-received and even made a few bucks, without hurting anyone.

Representation and allegory can be meaningful and are not just artifice and certainly not deceit. Warren is Native American if she says she is. There is no zero sum harm in her choosing to be, and perhaps some empathetic good.

    Warren is Native American if she says she is? Ah, so it’s okay if she’s a composite Cherokee and not a real one? Harvard didn’t give her a composite professorship did they?

    Welcome to the wonderful world of Democrat Composite Identity Politics: Julia, Elizabeth, Dear Leader’s girlfriends, and of course, the bubbly and vivacious Sandra Fluke.

      full-throated support in reply to persecutor. | June 12, 2012 at 10:11 am

      Warren doesn’t just claim Cherokee, persecutor, but Delaware.

      What did Della wear, boy? What did Della wear?
      She wore a bran’ new jersey!

      How did Liz get dizzy? How did Liz get D.C.?
      She got to massive choose it!

        TrooperJohnSmith in reply to full-throated support. | June 12, 2012 at 4:50 pm

        An insensitive cultural appropriation is best defined by the DC NFL franchise. Why is the DC sports team still called “redskins”? A redskin was a human skin required to collect a dead Indian bounty, but that was eventually dropped in favor of scalps. Imagine if the team was renamed “blackskins”?

        In the face this, does anyone think Liawatha’s stolen heritage will matter?

        Those do-it-yourself shock treatments are working wonders. Up the voltage!

          full-throated support in reply to persecutor. | June 12, 2012 at 6:33 pm

          Persecutor, I stick metal things into wall sockets, sure enough, and it makes me tingle!

          You, otoh, should try to stay cool by standing in a vat of water when repairing a live line.

        Henry Hawkins in reply to full-throated support. | June 12, 2012 at 10:34 pm

        If Warren wants to assert she is a Cherokee in any official way – such as on job applications/resumes – she need only meet the same criteria held out for other Cherokee. She need only point out any ancestor(s) of hers listed on the Dawes Roll. Now, bear in mind, that’s going by Cherokee criteria. If she’s just a race-obsessed liberal looking to earn some diversity points and/or affirmative action goodies, there is no criterion to follow. She may go ahead and lie about it. Her party and supporters will not hold her to account for lying. It is an accepted practice among her peers in the Democrat Party, progressive movement, Harvard University, etc.

    Maybe…in a perverse way…you are on to something.

    I’ll be a Muslim imam, ’cause I take in my head to be. No harm in the zero-sum game.

    Somebody here can do the same with being a Mexican saint, and so on.

    Now, I am a TERRIBLE Muslim imam, and I WILL continue to be one. I know very little about Islam, and have no connection to it in reality. I drink, I shave, I eat pork with great relish (or without any relish at all), and I chase wild women (catch and release). I think Mohamed was a very strange geezer, and not one of history’s nice guys. I don’t give a flying fig if people believe him or not. I actually LIKE women and Jews. And some Christians, too.

    But, see, the genius of this perverse idea is that this way EVERYBODY’S ethnic, religious, and cultural identity becomes a joke…a caricature…and all such identity is weakened and made into a homogenized mush of cheap parody.

    Like I say…maybe…

    Jack Asterson in reply to full-throated support. | June 12, 2012 at 1:16 pm

    Oh, so that’s how it works: you just get to claim to be something and BAM! – that’s what you are.

    So if Romney claims tomorrow that he’s a Cherokee women and uses that to compaign on – “If elected, I’d be the first female AND native-American to become president ever!” – liberals won’t complain at all, right? I mean, so long as he “feels like” he’s a Cherokee women, who cares?

    stevewhitemd in reply to full-throated support. | June 12, 2012 at 4:41 pm

    Am I black if I say I am? As it turns out, I am pasty-pink in complexion.

    Am I a woman if I say I am? As it turns out, I have one X and one Y chromosome per cell.

    Either there are objective standards on race and ethnicity or there are not. You seem to think the latter. Explain how it is that it would be okay for Prof. Warren to claim native American ancestry and not okay for me to claim black ancestry.

    I await your reply.

“Playing Indian has a long history in the United States, all the way back to those original tea parties in Boston, and in no way is it better than minstrel shows or dressing up in blackface”

Sorry, but that is just loopy nonsense. As a little boy, I spent many hours playing Indian…had a feathered head-dress, bow and arrow…the whole enchilada. ‘Course, it WAS the fifties, and TV was replete with Westerns, so I had a two-gun rig, chaps, that kinda thang.

Never did dress up as a minstrel…

But that was a child. When I grew older, I put away childish things. And learned the line between pretend and real.

Liz…? A lesson here, lady.

Midwest Rhino | June 12, 2012 at 10:08 am

the NCAA termed Chief Illiniwek a “hostile or abusive” mascot and image in 2005. I’m not sure which groups are trying to leverage their position to gain power or influence, and who is really being served. Many of us alumni were saddened when the chief was removed from the field, (and shut up in a reservation).

“The Peoria Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma are the closest living descendants of the Illiniwek Confederacy, having been relocated to Oklahoma in the 19th century. The position of the tribal leadership has evolved over the years. In a television interview with WICD-TV in 1995, Don Giles, then Chief of the Peoria Tribe, said, “To say that we are anything but proud to have these portrayals would be completely wrong. We are proud. We’re proud that the University of Illinois, the flagship university of the state, a seat of learning, is drawing on that background of our having been there. And what more honor could they pay us?” Supporting Chief Giles was another tribal elder, Ron Froman, who stated that the protesters “don’t speak for all Native Americans, and certainly not us.”

So this idea of stolen valor is not limited to the likes of Warren claiming title to something not hers. Racial politics needs to stop, but Obama and Warren will milk it to the very last drop, even though they never suffered, but only profited from their alleged ties to slavery or the trail of tears.

Oh, we can’t “play Indian” or perform “in blackface” because (now think of every reason under the sun, whether it is rational or legitimate or not). To do so is to “appropriate” a culture, or to participate in “fetishization” (don’t you just hate it when they use a $25 word when a .25 cent one will work just as well?), or it’s some sort of “power” trip, or you’re going to collapse a culture. Really. Really?!

It is, however, okay to regularly portray persons of faith (especially Christian) in the most narrow-minded ways, hardly ever mentioning the very best of who they are. It is okay to run-down the family, so that it is reduced to little more than a collective of persons. It is okay to advance the notion that there is no authority but that of the individual with no responsibility to others. I could continue with numerous other examples. However, note their frequent use of “stereotypes,” “imitation,” “profiling,” cultural “appropriation” to regularly present and effect the supposed truth about, e.g., persons of faith, family, and authority. If this isn’t an “assertion of power,” then for sure I do not know what it is. And, in case I am being obtuse, I cite an example, one that at least some of you probably know.

That’s the black/white thing were by blacks say you can’t say or do this or that because you don’t know what it means to be black. On the other hand, blacks can say or do this or that about whites because, well, you see, they know us better than we know ourselves. Lately, when I hear the “I’m offended” statement, I generally respond in one of two ways. One, “is being offended the only way you have of responding to such a situation?” The other is “Why do you seem to have a need to be offended?”.

As for Warren, she can dress however she wants and make whatever claims she wants. However, as soon as she steps into the public venue with them she needs to be prepared to accept the consequences. Even so, I support her having the freedom to do so. Yet, I draw the line at her presenting herself as a candidate for public office while making unsubstantiated claims and, now, having allowed the whole matter to fester as long as it has.

Speaking of museums, I think Warren should be archived under “Lost Causes.”

1. …it appears the Netroots American Indian Caucus’s dismissal of Warren’s cultural appropriation isn’t a view shared by all Native Americans…

This sentence sounds like Anne accepts the identity-politics propaganda about “cultural appropriation”. Malicious, dishonest, polarizing special-interest propaganda.

2. I don’t understand why the cultural appropriation narrative is supposed to be binding on Warren.

3. This post tells me nothing about Warren that I have not already learned at LI. If I were an undecided voter, it would give me no new reason to vote against Warren.

The thing is, Elizabeth Warren didn’t even culturally appropriate Native Americans: she had nothing to do with them at all. She didn’t make any claims to cultural knowledge of Cherokee traditions; in fact the only time she ever actively represented herself as a minority was on job applications (the AALP minority directory was fundamentally a hiring tool). Betsy Warren didn’t even care enough to be an agent of cultural appropriation…all she ever took from Indians was a job.


Here is a good overview of Elizabeth Warren’s actions regarding her decision to help herself to a job that had been set aside for discriminated against minorities.

“It is really amazing that Elizabeth Warren, in Orwellian fashion, continues to say, “I’m proud of my Native American heritage” after being caught in a blatant deception, in which even her theoretical claim of being a Native American on the dubious basis of a great-great-great grandparent was not substantiated. I guess some of us are on a different planet, because both Warren and Harvard University seem to have been unethical at best and unlawful at worst — if she or anyone from the Law School (no less!) signed forms or affidavits attesting to Warren’s Native American status in accordance with federal affirmative action/diversity guidelines.

Fabricating an entire identity seems to me right up there with plagiarism, and yet neither Harvard nor Warren is the least bit troubled by the fact that at the heart of this scandal is an outright lie, both spoken and written. How many Harvard Law Schools or Elizabeth Warrens are there out there in academia, that have been untruthful in assessing their diversity profiles, and is that the reason for the complete silence on this matter from various professional academic and scholarly associations?

This scandal seems every bit as serious as those surrounding Michael A. Bellesiles or Greg Mortenson, in that a university or publisher cannot function without some degree of trust and fidelity. Just as scholars and editors must assume that research is professionally conducted and truthful, so too must universities and professors in good faith follow accepted norms.

But in this case, both Harvard and Warren displayed a degree of cynicism that is repellent, both in the attempt to pass off a 1/32nd claim, which itself was never substantiated, as proof of minority status and in the apparent idea that to do so was simply okay in contemporary academia’s diversity culture. And now? Rather than show some shame, the falsity is treated as truth without repercussions.”

Victor Davis Hanson

    ALman in reply to Cassie. | June 12, 2012 at 12:05 pm

    What? WHAT??? “Shame,” you say! What sort of person could you be that you should suggest, let alone publicly state, that persons ought to experience, no matter for what reason and to what degree, “shame”? What are you? Are you some sort of psychological terrorist? Why, under heaven, would you want persons to have any sense of guilt or shame? Even though we’re speaking of adults, they might be emotionally scarred for the remainder of their lives. Has the world gone mad?

    (Noting that a spokesman for the Congressional Black Caucus has stated that calling Obama “cool” is racist, I, too, am off to make sure the MSM knows that the use of the word “shame” ought to be forbidden, if not outright outlawed!)

NC Mountain Girl | June 12, 2012 at 11:47 am

That last sentence on that sign sounds less like cultural sensitivity than a form of economic protectionism. Only modern Native Americans have the right to use Native American design motifs? Does that mean that Ralph Lauren has to make sure all the turquoise and silver jewelry he uses to accessories his western themed sportswear has to be made by Navajo jewelers? I mean if you take that idea to its logical conclusion shouldn’t Lauren, f/n/a Ralph Lipschitz, have been barred from expropriating his signature WASP look? It wasn’t part of his native culture. Or how about that mishmash of misappropriated and pseudo African traditions called Kwanzaa, which I liken to celebrating my European heritage by wearing tartan Leiderhosen while drinking Ouzo with my lutefisk. Then there are those t those Native American charities that send me everything from dream catchers (an entirely modern creation) to Native American themed Christmas cards trying to get me to write a check for them.

I think people should be educated about the rich heritage of the various tribes. Perhaps that will help dry up the market for souvenir teepees made from birch bark, which I recall from trips to Northern Minnesota as a child. But the idea that that traditional designs are off limits to all but current tribe members is outlandish. This is America. We take out inspiration where ever we find it. If the cultural purists don’t like it they don’t have to buy the products -Or eat pizza bagels and the Thai seasoned tortilla chips.

i have no problem with playing injun.

nor do i have any problem with using them as mascots. using a tribe to represent the finer qualities of your establishment honors said tribe, not demean them.

of course, the possible exception is the washington redskins.

    Midwest Rhino in reply to drozz. | June 12, 2012 at 3:57 pm

    Teddy Turner and Hanoi Jane loved the Atlanta Braves’ tomahawk chop … but that is fine, cuz they are liberal nuts.

    I think I have a closer “relationship” with my Indian (geographical) brothers, when I find an arrowhead on my farm, than most of the current “Native Americans” do, despite their blood.

    I work the land, respect the wildlife, and imagine the local tribes’ hunting ground activities. Some “Native Americans” may do that, but many are “Americanized”, and the ones pushing the legal agenda are far removed from those that lived off the land.

    When will Lizzy come clean, and repay the advantage she derived from her Indian bloodline claims, and repay for her real ancestry of participating in dragging the Indians off the land?

    When will Obama repay for his ancestors that (probably) sold blacks into slavery? His dear old Dad profited from the sale of blacks, if the stories are correct. Certainly his Dad didn’t gain his position in Kenya by being sold INTO slavery.

TrooperJohnSmith | June 12, 2012 at 5:05 pm

As I’ve written here several times, I’m very proud of my Indian heritage, and am reminded of it every time I look in the mirror or drink alcohol! But since I’ve grown up around actual Indians in Oklahoma, New Mexico and (a few in) Texas, it’s never occurred to me to ‘pass’ as one. As stated by a number of Indians opining on Warren, doing so is to steal a birthright bought and paid for in blood and genocide. In fact, passing as Indian is anathema for me and should be for anyone with an ounce of integrity.

It’s actually pretty damn simple to resolve, unless one is lying or obfuscating…. or both.


full-throated support | June 12, 2012 at 6:08 pm

You’re named White, say you’re pasty-pink in hue, and want to claim black?

Either high cheekboned Lizzie’s a wee bit smarter than you, or you’re a former raconteur obsessed with blues.

I say go for it. You can take the faculty slot that would’ve gone to the well-to-do classically trained violinist daughter of a black doctor and teach Comparative Studies in Confused Racial Musicology, filling a niche she never could.

    full-throated support in reply to full-throated support. | June 12, 2012 at 6:09 pm

    The above comment was supposed to be Reply threaded to:

    stevewhitemd | June 12, 2012 at 4:41 pm

    “Am I black if I say I am? As it turns out, I am pasty-pink in complexion.

    Am I a woman if I say I am? As it turns out, I have one X and one Y chromosome per cell.

    Either there are objective standards on race and ethnicity or there are not. You seem to think the latter. Explain how it is that it would be okay for Prof. Warren to claim native American ancestry and not okay for me to claim black ancestry.

    I await your reply.”