On December 6th, New York Times reporter Astead W. Herndon released an article titled: Elizabeth Warren Stands by DNA Test. But Around Her, Worries Abound which discussed how the infamous DNA test — which Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts took to prove evidence of Native American ancestry — may have likely led to a darkening of her presidential ambitions for 2020.
Additionally, Warren staff members, advisers, and former advisers, who spoke to the New York Times on condition of anonymity, said they were “shocked” and “rattled” by Warren’s decision to take the test, with one former staff member stating the decision was a “depressing and unforgettable … strategic failure.”
Though Indian Country is often left out of reporting by the mainstream media. The New York Times did mention how Senator Warren’s initial decision to release her DNA test results ‘drew hostile reactions from prominent tribal leaders.’
In our Indian Country Today article, Strike Against Sovereignty? Sen. Warren asserts Native American ancestry via DNA, the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma issued a statement on October 15th asserting DNA is not proof of tribal citizenship. The response was so widely published, “The Cherokee Nation” trended on Twitter at the same time social media was exploding about Warren’s test results.
Cherokee Nation Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. said Senator Warren’s actions were undermining tribal interests.
"A DNA test is useless to determine tribal citizenship. Current DNA tests do not even distinguish whether a person’s ancestors were indigenous to North or South America," Cherokee Nation Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. said. "Sovereign tribal nations set their own legal requirements for citizenship, and while DNA tests can be used to determine lineage, such as paternity, to an individual it is not evidence for tribal affiliation. Using a DNA test to lay claim to any connection to the Cherokee Nation or any tribal nation, even vaguely, is inappropriate and wrong. It makes a mockery out of DNA tests and its legitimate uses while also dishonoring legitimate tribal governments and their citizens whose ancestors are well documented and whose heritage is proven. Senator Warren is undermining tribal interests with her continued claims of tribal heritage."
In the New York Times article, Herndon writes how advisers close to Warren say the Senator “has privately expressed concern that she may have damaged her relationships to Native American groups.”
Advisers are also concerned that Senator Warren will have to address the issue again if she intends to run for the Presidential campaign of 2020 and that plans should be in place to repair the damage.
Though the Cherokee Nation has remained fairly silent on the DNA test issue since October, other Native faces have come forward.
Shortly after the release of Warren’s DNA results, newly elected New Mexico Congresswoman Deb Haaland had tweeted support for Warren, calling her a “sister in the struggle.”
Haaland told the New York Times, “I absolutely respect tribes’ authority to determine who are tribal members … But I don’t think that’s what Elizabeth Warren was doing. She was merely looking to find a connection to her past and that’s exactly what she did.”
If Warren decides to announce a Presidential bid, advisers told the New York Times it could come in the coming weeks.
Follow Indian Country Today’s associate editor Vincent Schilling (Akwesasne Mohawk) on Twitter -@VinceSchilling