'Let's talk about Pocahontas': Warren addresses Native American heritage claims, slams Trump
February 14 at 3:56 PM Email the author Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) spoke about her family history and Native American issues in a speech to the National Congress of American Indians on Feb. 14. (National Congress of American Indians)
Sen. Elizabeth Warren directly addressed her Native American heritage in a speech to the National Congress of American Indians on Wednesday in Washington â" dealing head-on with claims that have frequently been ridiculed by President Trump and his supporters.
In her speech, the Massachusetts Democrat rebuked Trumpâs persistent mockery of her as âPocahontasâ and spoke in greater detail about her familyâs history.
âIâve noticed that every time my name comes up, President Trump likes to talk about Pocahontas,â she told the crowd, according to prepared text of her speech. âSo I figured, letâ s talk about Pocahontas.â
Warren spoke first, at length, about the real Pocahontas, and how the Native American womanâs life story â" particularly her marriage to a Jamestown settler â" was twisted into a âfable . . . used to bleach away the stain of genocide.â
Trumpâs use of âPocahontas,â Warren said, was another example of the countryâs long history of disrespect of Native Americans. During the presidential campaign, Trump frequently referred to Warren as âPocahontas,â a nickname he began using in 2016 to mock her claims to Native American heritage.
Since May 2016, Trump has referred to Warren as âPocahontasâ in at least nine tweets. In November, he invoked the derisive nickname again at a White House event honoring Navajo code talkers who helped the Marines during World War II.
âNow we have a president who canât make it through a ceremony honoring Native American war heroes without reducing native history, native culture, native people to the butt of a joke,â Warren said Wednesday. âThe joke, I guess, is supposed to be on me.â
Warren added she understood why âsome people think thereâs hay to be madeâ with regards to her background, because she wasnât enrolled in a tribe â" a distinction she said she respected.
âI understand that tribal membership is determined by tribes â" and only by tribes,â Warren said. âI never used my family tree to get a break or get ahead. I never used it to advance my career.â
Warren has cited family stories to claim Cherokee and Delaware Indian heritage, and her background has been publicly questioned since at least 2012.
In 2016, The Washington Postâs Fact Checker declined to assign a rating to Trump calling Warren a liar for claiming Native American ancestry, saying:
We found no proof that she ever marked a form to tell the schools about her heritage, nor any public evidence that the universities knew about her lineage before hiring her. Still, we found that Warrenâs relying on family lore rather than official documentation to make an ethnic claim raised serious concerns about Warrenâs judgment.
Indeed, she even submitted recipes to a Native American cookbook called âPow Wow Chow,â published in 1984 by the Five Civilized Tribes Museum in Muskogee, Okla. She signed her entries âElizabeth Warren â" Cherokee.â In September 2012, the Boston Globe tracked down members of Warrenâs family to corroborate her claim. But family members offered mixed opinions.
On Wednesday, Warren did not shy away from again stating that she was partly of Native American descent.
She said her paternal grandparents had been âbitterly opposedâ to her parentsâ relationship because her motherâs family was part Native American, though Warren did not further specify their background. Nevertheless, she said, her parents eloped in 1932 and remained married f or 63 years.
âTheyâre gone, but the love they shared, the struggles they endured, the family they built and the story they lived will always be a part of me,â Warren said. âAnd no one â" not even the president of the United States â" will ever take that part of me away.â
Warren told the gathering of Native American leaders that she would fight against âour countryâs mistreatment of your communities.â
In the second half of her speech, she again took aim at Trump for hanging a portrait of Andrew Jackson in the Oval Office â" and, in doing so, âhonoring a man who did his best to wipe out native people.â
âFor far too long, your story has been pushed aside, to be trotted out only in cartoons and commercials,â Warren said. âEvery time someone brings up my familyâs story, Iâm going to use it to lift up the story of your families and your communities.â
Founded in 1944, the National Congress of American Indians repres ents American Indian and Alaska Native tribes and advocates for indigenous rights. Warren was speaking at the groupâs policy summit in Washington, which also included appearances by several other members of Congress.
Warrenâs speech, however, did not appear to be listed in the summitâs published agenda.
Her remarks were immediately criticized by the Republican Party, which issued a response Wednesday in an official GOP email with the subject line: âFauxcahontas Keeps Digging.â
âShe failed to apologize to the actual Native Americans in the audience and continued to insist that she really is a Native American, despite the long list of evidence that indicates otherwise,â the GOP email stated.
The email also questioned why Warren âstopped claiming minority status once she made it to the Ivy League in the 1990s,â referring to a directory of law professors that listed her as a minority from 1986 to 1995, just before she joined Harvard Law Scho ol.
Warren was recruited to the Harvard position, according to her spokeswoman Kristen Orthman.
Charles Fried, a Harvard law professor who helped hire Warren to the schoolâs faculty, told the Associated Press in 2012 that any idea Warren got her position there because of minority status was âtotally stupid, ignorant, uninformed and simply wrong.â
âI presented her case to the faculty,â Fried told the AP then. âI did not mention her Native American connection because I did not know about it.âPresumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump took aim at Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) at a rally in Tampa, Fla., on June 11. He called Warren "Pocahontas," a jab at her claim that she is of Native American descent. (Reuters)
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