Fact Check: Elizabeth Warren
President Donald Trump is famous for his bullying tactics and calling people names. The most recent member of President Trump’s long list of name-calling victims is Democrat Senator Elizabeth Warren, representing Massachusetts.
On Monday, President Trump called Senator Warren “Pocahontas,” the daughter of a Native American chief in the early 17th century who welcomed English setters to America. That said, the name is likely more famous for and associated with the Disney animated film based (loosely) on her life.
Normally Trump is not very creative with his name calling. A few examples are “rocket man” for North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un, “crooked Hillary” for Hillary Clinton, and “crazy Bernie” for Senator Bernie Sanders, just to name a few. These are as grade school as they come; “rocket man,” for instance, was given to the North Korea leader for his talking about and testing nuclear missiles.
In the case of “Pocahontas,” Trump believes that Senator Warren is lying about being Native American. Yes, the name is offensive towards Warren and Native Americans in general, but at the end of the day, Trump does not care. This brings us to the question: is Elizabeth Warren Native American? This article will go through a fact-checking process to uncover the truth once and for all.
Is Elizabeth Warren Native American?
Well, according to Warren herself, she is part Native American, specifically Cherokee. This is based on a document found by genealogist Chris Child identifying Warren’s great-great-great grandmother, Sarah Smith, as Cherokee Indian. Therefore, based on that document, Warren is 1/32, or 3.1%, Native American.
In an interview with National Public Radio, Inc. in 2012, she said, “These are my family stories. This is what my brothers and I were told by my mom and my dad, my mamaw and my papaw. This is our lives. And I’m very proud of it.” She added that she is, “very proud of [her] heritage.” (Source: “In Mass. Senate Race, Warren On The Defensive Over Native American Heritage,” National Public Radio, Inc., May 1, 2012.)
Warren has also used being Native American on her employment paperwork. Before becoming a Senator, she worked for Harvard Law School as a professor. In the Association of American Law School directory, she was listed as a minority as a result. (Source: “Survey: Diversity Lacking At HLS,” The Harvard Crimson, October 22, 1996.)
After Harvard and before becoming a senator, Warren was listed as a minority professor once again when employed by the University of Pennsylvania. However, again before joining Harvard, Warren was working at the University of Texas, where she was listed as “white.” This has led some to argue that she used her Native American background to obtain work as a diversity hire when applying at Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania, two very difficult schools to become a professor at. (Source: “Is Elizabeth Warren Native American or What?,” The Atlantic, May 20, 2012.)
That said, the aforementioned paperwork regarding Sarah Smith indicates that Senator Warren is guilty of no wrongdoing. However, the possibility of the document being incorrect has been raised. While a DNA test has been suggested as a way to clear the matter up, Warren has elected not to take one, stating she feels that there is nothing to prove and that the document is evidence enough. As such, the answer to the question “is Elizabeth Warren Native American?” remains a solid “maybe.”
Why Is Warren’s Cultural Background Relevant?
It all started in 2012, when Warren was running her campaign against Republican representative Scott Brown for the position of Senator of Massachusetts. He looked into her background and noticed there was advancements in Warren’s career that came as a result of being identified as a Native American. Brown would go on to call Warren a liar. (Source: “Scott Brown: Elizabeth Warren can take DNA test to prove Native American heritage,” The Washington Times, June 28, 2016.)
When Brown was on the campaign trail, his staff members were filmed doing various Native American rituals in order to mock Warren. Brown has also been recorded as saying that the facial features of Warren do no reflect the characteristics of a Native American person. Brown was the first individual to say that Warren should take a DNA test to prove that she is Native American.
In a way, what Trump is doing is only a continuation of what Brown started. And as she speaks against the his beliefs and opinions, the President is likely to continue. Warren has even gone as far as calling Trump a “loser.” (Source: “Elizabeth Warren Slams ‘Loser’ Donald Trump in Twitter Tirade,” Vice, March 21, 2016.)
Conclusion: Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas” Comments
On paper, Elizabeth Warren is Native American, but the full truth is still unknown. A DNA test is the only means of obtaining a more accurate answer.
But regardless of if Warren is Native American or not, the remarks used by President Trump and previously Scott Brown would be labelled as racist. Such thoughtless remarks could be seen as crossing a line when it comes to someone’s culture.