Warren responds to concerns from Native American groups about her ancestry


Warren wrote in a 12-page letter to the Cherokee Nation that she was 'wrong' to identify as Native American, but some are saying her apology fell short.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) again renounced her previous claims of Native American ancestry, writing in a 12-page apology letter to the Cherokee Nation that she is sorry for wrongly identifying as Native American.

Warren wrote the letter in response to a letter signed by more than 200 members of the Cherokee Nation and other Native Americans who called her previous apologies "vague and inadequate."

The letter specifically asked Warren to affirm that her family stories of Native ancestry are false and wrong to repeat, explain that kinship and tribal affiliation determine Native identity rather than race or biology, and clarify that "Native people are the sole authority on who is Native — and who is not — Native."

Warren responded to the letter signatories, stating she is "not a person of color" and is "a white woman."

"I am not a tribal citizen," Warren wrote. "Tribal Nations—and only Tribal Nations—determine tribal citizenship. It's their right as a matter of sovereignty, and they exercise that in the ways they choose to exercise it. I have said very publicly — and I will continue to say — that DNA does not determine tribal citizenship."

Warren also wrote that she understood if Native Americans found it hard to forgive her.

"I understand, with humility, that this is your right," Warren said about whether or not Native people choose to forgive her. "Regardless of whether you forgive me — and again, that is up to you and you alone — I will continue to try my hardest to be the best champion for Indian Country I can be."

Rebecca Nagle, a Cherokee writer who helped organize the letter, said in a tweet that Warren's response was a "step in the right direction." But Nagle also pointed out that Warren failed to address a concern included in the letter, that her "family story of Cherokee and Delaware ancestry is false" and that both Warren and her ancestors are white.

Warren's claim of Native American ancestry when she applied for a teaching position at Harvard has dogged her presidential bid.

She took a DNA test prior to entering the race in an attempt to make the issue go away, a move that angered members of the Cherokee Nation.

Warren — who in her response to the Cherokee Nation points to a Boston Globe review that found she did not earn preferential treatment because of her identification as a Native American — later apologized for taking the DNA test.

Warren is currently polling fourth nationally in the crowded Democratic presidential primary field, according to FiveThirtyEight's poll average, behind Sen. Bernie Sanders, former Vice President Joe Biden, and former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.