Saturday, October 20, 2018

A Curated List of Native Responses to Elizabeth Warren

In 2012 when Elizabeth Warren first spoke about being "part Delaware and part Cherokee" and about a photo of someone in her family who had high cheekbones, I wrote several blog posts to help people understand why her remarks were harmful to Native people and Native nations.

Now in 2018, Warren took a DNA test, presumably, to get trump off her back. She released a video about her test. Doing that made matters worse. Because she's more visible now than she was then, the conversations were--and are--much louder. I'm curating some links to articles and posts by Indigenous people that I think will be helpful to teachers and librarians who read AICL. I'll be back to insert more links. Please let me know of ones I should add.

Note on Sun, Oct 21: Some argue that my list is biased because it does not include links to posts from Indigenous people who think Warren's actions are fine. The point of my list is to provide readers with Indigenous points of view that find her decisions, and mainstream media's pro-Warren/anti-trump binary unhelpful to the well being of Indigenous Nations. 


Monday, October 15, 2018
Chuck Hoskin Jr., Cherokee Nation Secretary of State: Cherokee Nation responds to Senator Warren's DNA test

Tuesday, October 16, 2018
Kim TallBear interview at Jezebel's The Slot: 'Our Vote Matters Very Little': Kim TallBear on Elizabeth Warren's Attempt to Claim Native American Heritage.
Dr. TallBear has referenced Polly's Granddaughter as a site with in-depth research on Warren's claims. 

Julian Brave NoiseCat at HuffPost: Elizabeth Warren Is Not Native American

Nick Martin at Splinter: Elizabeth Warren's Deception

Simon Moya-Smith at CNN: I am a Native American. I have some questions or Elizabeth Warren.

Debra Utacia Krol at Vice: Actual Native Americans Have More to Worry About than Warren's DNA

Wednesday, October 17, 2018
Brandon Scott at Vox: Cherokee Nation citizens like me are used to people claiming our heritage. It's exhausting. 

Kelly Hayes and Jacqueline Keeler at NBC News Think: Elizabeth Warren connected DNA and Native American heritage. Here's why that is destructive.

Julie Reed at NY Daily News: Elizabeth Warren, what were you thinking? Her DNA stunt does a disservice to Native Americans

Krystal Tsosie at The Atlantic: Elizabeth Warren's DNA Is Not Her Identity

Thursday, October 18, 2018
Tara Houska, Mark Trahant, and Gyasi Ross on Democracy Now: Native Americans React to Elizabeth Warren's DNA Test: Stop Making Native People "Political Fodder"

Rebecca Nagle at USA Today: Elizabeth Warren's 'part' Cherokee is a joke, and a racist insult to Natives like me
See Nagle's op ed at Think Progress on Nov 30, 2017: I am a Cherokee woman. Elizabeth Warren is not
Crystal Echo Hawk at Indian Country Today: Changing Elizabeth Warren's story to one about Native America

Friday, October 19, 2018
Nick Estes at The Intercept: Native American Sovereignty Is Under Attack. Here's How Elizabeth Warren's DNA Test Hurt Our Struggle.

Mariah Gladstone at Broadly: Native American Is Not My Race--It's Who I Am

Kim TallBear at On The Media: By Blood, and Beyond Blood

Rebecca Nagle interviewed at The Atlantic's Radio Atlantic: The Politics of Ancestry

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Zerlina Maxwell's remarks, on MSNBC, about the Cherokee Freedmen are incorrect. See Rebeccca Nagel's response at her Facebook page. Here's a screen cap of the first two paragraphs, followed by a couple of the links she included on that post.

  1. Native America Calling, September 6, 2017: Court Victory for Cherokee Freedmen
  2. The Descendants of Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes  
Monday, October 22, 2018

Krystal Tsosie and Matthew Anderson at The Conversation: Two Native American Geneticists Interpret Elizabeth Warren's DNA Test.

January 17, 2019


Ava Jarvis said...

I don't think Warren did this to get Trump off her back. Or if that was part of her reason, it was short-sighted. Because everybody really ought to know by now that it doesn't matter to Trump if you engage with him, or if you don't engage with him: he is going to throw mud everywhere regardless.

I'm pretty sure Warren did this mostly (or even completely) to raise her own profile among non-Native liberal voters, of which the white segment is extremely high. I wouldn't even be terribly surprised if she thought doing this would pull non-Native non-white voters to her side. She did the political calculus, determined that Native voters didn't matter and had few sympathizers among non-Native voters, and in her case, the most expedient way to get her name into the news cycle was to throw that group under the bus.

I'm so cynical, I think she counted on Native folks being up in arms about what she did, which is already causing clueless liberal voters to double down and attach themselves more firmly to her brand. It's an issue centered around her, and given the rest of what she has, it was the one that had the most possible firepower. There is very little downside for her for what she did, and she lit the powder keg a few weeks before midterms.

I don't think most white people understand how much I dislike older white liberals like Warren (and those who side with them, I have no misconceptions that there are older non-white politicians who think like Warren), because I have watched non-white people get stabbed in the back repeatedly. White liberals and white conservatives, and those who embrace that white thinking, have a habit of sacrificing non-white people repeatedly for their own ends.

We are literally not people to them, and our votes aren't worth it to them.

And unfortunately non-Native non-white people tend to act the same way towards Native people. I say this as a Vietnamese person who has observed anti-indigenous East and SE Asian folks for too many damned years.

On a happier note, I saw also your recent tweet thread on Native nations. This is something I've learned myself through your blog, Media Indigena, and Native America Calling, and it's something I wish was actually taught to everybody in childhood. It's helped increased my understanding of the politics involved. And I'm so thankful for your blog and your tweets and your presence.

Ava Jarvis said...

Ooof, apologies for the second comment in a row, but I forgot a couple of things.

1. Companies like 23-and-me are shady. They can't actually tell that dog DNA isn't human DNA, which has been demonstrated (and discussed on Media Indigena, I can't remember the details or which episode, but apparently a cocker spaniel has Native ancestry according to one of these companies).

2. Folks are investigating whether companies like 23-and-me are doing unethical things with the DNA samples they're getting from people. There's suspicion that this is helping companies start forging ahead into the idea of genetic intellectual property. Doing that kind of stuff---marrying corporate to medical in order to own someone else's literal body parts---is well-precedented (the most high-profile case I know of involves Henrietta Lacks; her HeLa cells are used in multi-million dollar cancer research, which lines the medical industry's pockets more often than not due to the nature of how privately-funded medical research is monetarily protected from the public).

Anyways that's just two little thoughts of amusement and abject horror.

Jean Mendoza said...

You mention your 2012 blogs about EW in the most recent post, but just in case readers overlooked them -- these are really clear recommendations for how a public figure like Warren could/should respond to input from Native people (and the media fallout) regarding her claim:

Joshua Hunt said...

Thank you so much for curating this list! This was something I was planning on doing.

Simon Moya-Smith (Oglala Lakota) wrote a piece on CNN about Elizabeth Warren's DNA test:

Native America Calling will be discussing this on their show this Tuesday (10/23/18):

-Joshua Hunt (Southern Cheyenne)

Debbie Reese said...

Thanks, Joshua. I added the link to Simon's. I'll add one to the NAC one when it is archived.

Ava--thanks! The response we're getting from White liberals is frustrating, to say the least, as they try to tell us what to do, how to be, etc. A colleague wrote elsewhere that they're asking us to sacrifice our identities, our voices, for "the greater good" that was not a good for us. Ever. They also speak to us as if we are naive.

Jean--thanks for noting that post.

NativeScientist said...

Yaaassss, Ava! Appreciate your comments, your appreciation, your seriousness, discernment, and level of consciousness and engagement on this corpus of issues. It's evident. Warren doesn't give a ____ about Native nations or the millions of Native family members and children who don't make up her coveted and sought after voter bloc. She's repeating the same harmful song as many of her ancestors before her...and not the Native ones.

Unknown said...


I was wondering if you have seen the response from the Chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.

Jean Mendoza said...

Maybe one small thing non-Native people can do with all this is write to EW's political allies (e.g., B. Sanders, D. Durbin, T. Duckworth, any of them really), inform them about what makes the situation disturbing & why it should matter to them, and suggest they & their staff read this blog post and all its links. We have no reason to believe that most of them are any more knowledgeable/concerned about Native nationhood, sovereignty, & self-determination than EW is. So we can point them to resources that may get them to think more deeply. History suggests they won't go looking for that on their own.

Hard to say what could come of that, but am waiting for my replies...

Erika said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ava Jarvis said...

NativeScientist -- I am only doing what a decent human being should do. I am the low bar for non-native people engaging with this issue. I know a lot of non-native people don't meet it, but I don't feel like I should earn praise for doing so. (This isn't even the traditional Vietnamese-and-nearby-areas tradition of what the West calls the "humble brag"; I really don't believe I've earned praise here, but thank you.)

Stacey -- I've read it. It's one of a large number of native viewpoints out there. No "group" is a monolith, etc, and I understand the point being made. I still read and listen to the native voices who don't agree with this point, and those who do, and the native folks who have nuanced issues to add to that point, because I'm extremely wary of the "this one person raised this point that I, an outsider to these issues, like, and now I will only use this person as my defense for this complex and nuanced issue" method that some people are trying to do with that link and others (not you necessarily).

E. Ternes -- there's resources discussing the DNA and blood quanta stuff, etc., to read, especially in the twitter thread that Debbie posted later here. There is nuance here to be had, and yeah, your "woke" friends also don't understand what is going on.

Short version: blood quanta is not what counts towards Indigenous identity, and the way the media portrays this is wrong and done in such a way as to mislead people into think that what the elders are protesting is the "low quanta," rather than the fact that Warren doesn't interact with the indigenous community she is near, along with other historical things. In particular, blood quanta is a *settler* view of how to measure "indigineity" so that they could tell when indigenous people were finally "eradicated." It is the last thing that indigenous nations are into. I suspect this white-focused coverage, liberal or conservative, is what is making your students distressed, and what is making your "woke" friends so friggin' annoying.

But really, read the resources, because that will help with understanding more fully what's going on than my inadequate, non-native, settler cliff notes.

I also know that what I wrote in the first comment is considered vitriolic by many white liberals, and that the more measured and diplomatic responses by tribal elders are similarly categorized as such. I think none of these responses are vitriol; they are uncompromisingly voiced dissent that don't descend to threats, name-calling, libel, slander, or lies---politeness is not a determining factor of whether a complaint has merit. We are not polite, but we are not throwing baseless accusations either.

For me, my doubt is based on the fact that Warren has been warned against doing this by indigenous folks for years, and she claimed to have listened to them. The fact that she went ahead and did it anyways, during this time, ignoring the warnings that this would blow back on her and native people especially, makes me doubt that her motives were pure. She was warned of the harm this would cause; she acknowledged the warning; then she went back on her promise.

Were it not for that, I would be less "harsh" (though some would say I'm harsh regardless, up to and including the time I said, "I'm disappointed in X author" and didn't talk about that author again; that tone policing is something!).

But given this history?

Yeah. I don't think you can blame people for being upset at her and questioning her motives, because there is legit reason to, without buying into conspiracy theories.

Erika said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ava Jarvis said...

Erika Ternes -- I may dislike Warren and what she did, but I'm not saying that she's not as qualified as a lot of other folks who do get voted in. I don't think it's the case that I shouldn't criticize what she did? Are you asking that white women in public office should be given a pass on stuff like this to avoid empowering sexism (somehow)? That we cannot criticize them for doing something wrong, going back on promises, etc, or else we are "playing into the hands of sexism"?

I've heard this argument before, and I hope you aren't making it.

And perhaps don't rely on the voices from one reservation? The wider conversation on Twitter and the links Debbie Reese offer---do they help you? Or are they not valuable to you because they are not local, and thus you cannot use them for information? Is it the case that the points of view being offered across the nation are not good enough?

Ava Jarvis said...

Apologies for yet another second comment following in a row, but: Erika Ternes, I don't feel like you addressed the various points in my comment on October 23rd.

I understand if you don't feel like any of those points are worthy of being answered, and also understand your care for your students may well mean that anything I say against Warren here, or me bringing up the resources and asking if they are useful, aren't useful to you, and even harmful.

I spent most of this morning sick enough to get knocked out for the rest of this week again, and I don't have time to give you words that you think aren't worth hearing, for valid reasons or not. It would waste both of our time, and I understand very much that time is short on this earth.

Debbie Reese said...

Stacey--yes, I've seen that response. See my note, posted on Sunday, Oct 21. It might have gone up after your comment.

E. Termes-- Your use of the word "vitriolic" to characterize Native responses is exactly what liberals are saying to us now, in the past and no doubt they'll do it on into the future. With your anecdote, you're using Native children as a shield for your words. That's pretty messed up. But--it is par for the course. You're far from the only non-Native person to tell Native people who are fighting for our nations and the well being of our nations, to think of our children and how our actions are, in your point of view, causing them "hurt." And, I hope you talk to your liberal friends who are sharing those cartoons. And, Scott Brown did not make this a thing in the first place. Warren did that, all on her own. His response to it was racist. But she's doubled down on it with this DNA test. And her subsequent statements about it.

And, E. Termes, you cannot compare the speech of white liberal friends (woke or not) to the speech of Native people. Native people speaking up are speaking outside of the American two party system. GOP and Dem's are both trying to shoehorn Native responses into that binary. We stand outside of it.

Ava--thank you, again. I deeply value your contributions to AICL.

Unknown said...

To clarify, I didn't add my post about the Eastern Band's response as necessarily in agreement with Chief Sneed and indicative of my personal feelings about Elizabeth Warren. I merely found the juxtaposition of the official responses from Cherokee Nation Oklahoma and Eastern Band interesting.

As a person who tends to lean left politically, I think it's a shame that this is happening because I like Warren otherwise. As a Cherokee (I'm sorry), and Eastern (I'm sorry again) who easily passes for white, I have tried to remain quiet about this because it doesn't matter what I say, someone is going to be angry at me, but Warren was wrong in the beginning, and she was wrong to pull out the DNA test now, especially at a time when the administration is trying to turn tribal identity into a racial issue. If that were the case, they would take a look at me and label me white due to my Scottish/Welsh side, but I'm not. Warren has only succeeded in muddying the waters.

My conservative white friends are sending me jokes and memes that are, quite frankly,offensive. My liberal white friends assume that I accept her DNA results to mean that she's Native American. I'm not sure any of them really understand what I'm trying to tell them.

I will say that I am a suspicious person by nature, so I do question why she is bringing this all up at this time. A run for president 2020, perhaps? Anyway, I appreciate everyone's insight. Sgi!

Unknown said...

I wonder about the timing too--I have no doubt that she's contemplating a 2020 run, but I honestly have no idea what a 2018 DNA test would contribute to that. It's a long time between now and then. My understanding was that her popularity among white liberals prior to this was perfectly fine, Ava, though I have no evidence for this, so I could be wrong, but if I'm not, this seems like a very roundabout way to rally white liberals to her side.

In the end, I don't think it matters, and my curiosity doesn't matter outside of my own head. She's done some significant damage and caused significant hurt here. Par for the course for anybody with presidential aspirations.


Sam Jonson said...

Upon seeing all this stuff, I thought: Whoa. Has Senator Warren forgotten about everything good she said and did at the National Congress of American Indians back in February?! Or the hard-earned standing ovation she received?!
Provided here:
I'm still wondering how she could do such a foolish thing, especially when she could have just told Trump et al. something like "I may not be Native, but that does NOT make you right in any way."