Friday, September 21, 2012

Dear Scott Brown: Do you know what Native Americans look like?

At the end of May, I wrote about Elizabeth Warren (running for US Senate against incumbent Scott Brown) and her family story about how they are part Cherokee.

Last night was the first debate between Warren and Brown. The first thing Scott Brown brought up was Warren's identity. He said "Professor Warren claimed she was a Native American, a person of color. And as you can see, she's not."

Scott Brown's ignorance is showing!


Brown's remark suggests that a blue-eyed blonde could not be American Indian. He is wrong about that. 

Being a tribally enrolled member or citizen of a federally recognized tribe is what matters (and yes, there is a lot of debate about federal recognition and state recognition). Is Native identity determined by skin color? Nope. Hair color? Nope. Obviously, his idea of what an American Indian should look like is based on stereotypes!

The Cherokee Nation has several videos about being a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. Here's one:

As the video demonstrates, Cherokee's "look" lots of different ways with regard to hair and skin color.

Scott Brown ought to watch that video!

And maybe he should read Cynthia Leitich Smith's short story, "A Real-Live Blond Cherokee and His Equally Annoyed Soul Mate" in Moccasin Thunder, edited by Lori Marie Carlson.

There's a lot of ignorance in America (around the world, in fact) about who American Indians are, but there are a lot of outstanding children's and young adult books that can unseat that ignorance. Moccasin Thunder has short stories by several leading Native writers: Joy Harjo, Sherman Alexie, Richard Van Camp, Linda Hogan, Joseph Bruchac, Greg Sarris, Lee Francis, and Susan Power. Pick it up today. Elizabeth Warren and Scott Brown could learn a lot by reading it.


Anonymous said...

She used a cook book as proof that she is Native American. Warren also never listed herself as a minority as an undergrad or graduate student. But she knew in fact that a minority status could get herself into Harvard. So, she did it. Those are the facts.

Anonymous said...

That's a rather ignorant thing to say. To begin with, why does he get to define how she identifies herself? His statement of "clearly, she's not" is what is revealling of his ignorance. My VERY white children (yes, one of them is blonde) does not mean that they can't claim MY ethnic background. Simply because they look like my husband does NOT negate the fact that I am their mother. And, incidentally, I did not necessarily claim minority status (although both my parents are "minorities") because I did not need some of the benefits that might be offered to me....I wanted them to be available to others not as economically fortunate as I was. Your assumption about Ms. Warren's motivation is wholly inappropriate.

Beverly said...

Thank you for this article. I emailed the senator and asked him the same thing.

Tahleen said...

As a resident of Massachusetts, I'm finding this election difficult between the two candidates we are choosing between.

Debbie Reese said...


Warren makes me very angry. As I said in my post a few minutes ago, I knock on doors and make phone calls for Democrats. We Democrats need her to win that seat for the good of the country. I'm glad I don't live In Massachusetts.

Caranina said...

Here is a pic of a Native American Navajo man and his blonde daughter. Scott, this child has 1/2 Native American heritage, but I bet you would say she doesn't as well!