In one of the oddest and most uncomfortable moments of Elizabeth Warren’s defense of her claim to be Cherokee, Warren invoked her Aunt Bea, who allegedly told the story a thousand times about how Aunt Bea’s father (Warren’s grandfather, whom Warren referred to as her own “pappaw”) had high cheekbones “like all of the Indians do”:

So Aunt Bea was Indian, sharing the same ancestry as Warren, according to Warren, and that ancestry was such an important part of who Aunt Bea was that she told the story about the high cheekbones at least a thousand times.

Yet when Aunt Bea died, she was not identified as American Indian by the person who informed the State of Oklahoma about the death.  That “informant” was none other than Warren, and she identified Aunt Bea as “White,” even though the Certificate of Death listed American Indian as the first of several alternatives.

This information was uncovered by Cherokee genealogist Twila Barnes:


That Warren chose to identify Aunt Bea on an official record as “White” doesn’t disprove absolutely that Aunt Bea told stories about being Native American, but it does show that as of the date of the Certificate of Death in 1999, Warren did not deem such stories (assuming they were told) to render Aunt Bea Native American for reporting purposes.

Yet in that same time frame Warren was identifying herself to Harvard as Native American for federal reporting purposes.


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