NY Times reports Sen. Warren’s DNA test may have darkened Presidential ambitions

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., gives her victory speech at a Democratic election watch party in Boston, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

Anonymous staff say Warren’s decision was a ‘strategic failure’ and reparations are needed if seeking a presidential bid

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

Email -vschilling@indiancountrytoday.com

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Why is this issue continually beaten over and over like a dead horse?! This doesn’t seem to serve anyone by being so stressed out about whether or not Warren has native blood in her. For her whole life she was told as was her whole family, that they had a native relative in the background. It was something they were proud of. It wasn’t that long ago when people were ashamed of having Native or African blood in them and now people are finding it as a source of pride, isn’t that a good thing?? Supposedly it was proven that she did not get benefits in her career or schooling for being native. So....perhaps it’s ok and shouldn’t be the focus but instead, getting help for broken down housing on the reservations, jobs and health care in remote areas, suicide amongst teens and getting rid of mascots, Etc... Perhaps? Or maybe Warren could be an ally for native people because she’s one of the few people in government that actually care about people, including indigenous so maybe, just maybe it’s not important in the context of SO many other things that area and she could respectively be used to help native people :). Peace.


She is white as my ass!! She went to high school with my mom and uncle and she had nothing to do with ndns. She should be in jail for defrauding the college scholarship programs and violating EEOC laws.


Chuck Hoskin Jr. of the Cherokee Nation gravely misinterpreted Senator Warren's intentions in going ahead with the DNA test, and made her look like a scoundrel; and unfortunately his long comment got a lot of media attention. Deb Haaland's much briefer comment was much fairer -- but that too didn't get it quite right. Haaland wrote that the DNA test "confirms the family history." Yes, but only part of it. Family history (as Warren had described it) identified the Native lineage specifically as Cherokee; but the DNA test has no information about Warren's ancestor being Cherokee.

In any case, though the DNA test was not without some value, still it's fair to criticize Senator Warren as having been uninterested in cultivating Native American connexions and friendships for a long time now. That would have been a very fitting thing for her to do, in honor of the female elders of her family, but she kept missing the opportunity to do anything about it. So if that counts against her, it's a fair and serious criticism.


Senator Elizabeth Warren needs to stay down for the count.


I think it is important to recognize and validate the distinction Deb Haaland is making and should be made in this instance. Being of Indigenous by blood and being a tribal citizen are two very different things. Additionally, it is critical to consider the whole DNA-says-so argument. DNA testing to establish a child's parents is well-established and accurate. Using it to establish a child’s grandparents becomes far more tenuous. Using DNA to establish one's "racial" heritage is far more problemmatic. To me, having a DNA test say "s/he is Indigenous/German/Australian/etc" is full of problems. The first is the science itself. Yes, lots of sampling has occurred, but we are talking about the entire human species over hundreds of thousands of years. We don't have that kind of extensive sampling. The second is this. Isn't using DNA to determine species the second coming of the same old nonsense? The human species cannot be divided into races, and doing so reveals the continuing biases and prejudices that one group of people is different from another at a fundamental, biological level. An excellent review is found here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3737365/. So, I think we need to tread lightly here or we will be introducing a new way to marginalize us and make us disappear. See my full blog post here: