Political Animal


September 16, 2012 10:46 AM Elizabeth Warren’s Indian Roots Explored

By Ben Jacobs

It seems Elizabeth Warren is really an Indian after all. The Boston Globe did a deep dive into Warren’s heritage and found a number of relatives who confirmed that the Senate candidate has distant family ties to the Cherokee and Delaware tribes.

It was revealed in April that Warren had been listed as a minority by Harvard because of her Native American descent but Warren had been unable to provide any evidence of this besides family histories. The result was that she was slammed as a “fake Indian” and hurt her standing in the polls.

Just as incumbent Republican Senator Scott Brown’s stint as a male model was blown out of proportion in his 2010 special election, far too much attention has been paid to whether Warren’s grandfather had “high cheekbones.” The Globe’s reporting should hopefully bury the issue once and for all. The campaign can finally move forward to enable Massachusetts voters to get down to the real policy differences between Warren and Brown.

Ben Jacobs is a journalist living in New York. He is a former reporter for Newsweek/The Daily Beast and contributor to the Boston Globe editorial page. Follow him on Twitter @bencjacobs.


  • c u n d gulag on September 16, 2012 12:11 PM:

    GOP POV:
    SEE! SHE IS A RED!!!

    And frankly, we never understood the big hoo-hah about Scott's posing for Playgirl.
    If a staple can hide your hoo-hah when you're posing, why was there a "big" controversy in the first place?

  • g.powell on September 16, 2012 12:18 PM:

    I don't know Mr. Jacobs, I find this piece to be full of thinly anti-Native-American sentiment. I'm very disappointed.

  • DAY on September 16, 2012 12:26 PM:

    Her roots may be controversial, but Brown's dick-i-ness is not.

  • Andy Hall on September 16, 2012 12:47 PM:

    IIRC, Brown only claimed 1/32 Cherokee heritage. As it happens, that's exactly the same proportion of Cherokee heritage as Bill John Baker, the elected Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation today.

    If it's good enough for the actual Cherokee, it ought to be good enough for everyone else. But then, logic and reason packed up and left town years ago when it comes to the political campaigning.

  • Ron Byers on September 16, 2012 12:50 PM:

    Mr. Jacobs, I have been reading your postings this weekend with interest. I must say you have a very different point of view from our regular writers. I would like to know how you reported the original story challenging Ms. Warren's Native American heritage.

    By the way there is a hundred year old photo of my wife's ancestors showing one of the ladies (a Native American) being shunned by her white sisters in law. That photo was reflective of the narrow minded bigotry implied in your post, but now, in her family at least, descendants search diligently to prove their Native American roots.

  • bluestatedon on September 16, 2012 2:42 PM:

    Scott Brown's posing naked for a magazine devoted to puerile articles about sex and women's fashion was blown out of proportion? Give me a f*cking break. If it had been a Democrat with that on his resume, Jerry Falwell would have risen from the grave in righteous rotting indignation, and the entire Republican establishment from LA to NYC would have enthusiastically joined in. But as always, IOKIYAR.

  • Steve Hager on September 16, 2012 3:19 PM:

    Being an "Indian" is a political status under the Constitution. Ms. Warren is clearly of descent, which is all she ever claimed to be. Tribes are the ultimate arbiter of their membership. The criticism of Ms. Warren deliberately obfuscated the two categories in a rather desperate attempt to slam her, while at the same time introducing an element of racism into the election. Scott Brown and his ilk should be ashamed, but anyone pretending to be a regular ole pickup-driving guy to appeal to the very people he intends to screw over is unlikely to understand shame.

  • maryQ on September 16, 2012 3:58 PM:

    True story, I swear.

    I've always been told that I have Mohawk ancestry. No one can prove it, by my grandma told of the full-blooded Mohawk woman living in upstate New York, a third generation Catholic, no less, who married my great-great- grandpa, some Scotch-Irish Appalachian decedent of a probable horse thief who came here on a prison ship. This union produced the lineage that gave rise to my Catholic grandpa, who was considered a suitable mate for my Irish Catholic first generation American grandma.

    I repeat. No one can prove this. I don't think any of us have really tried, but we just don't think that the paper work is there. I've managed to produce records of great Grandpa, the son of great great Grandma Catholic Mohawk, but its the best we can do.

    Anyway, about a decade ago, when interviewing for a faculty position at an elite university, I was asked, casually, at dinner, what was my "ethnicity". Leaving aside that this is a totally illegal question, I thought they were just making pleasant chit chat. So I said the usual mix of late-19th/early 20th dirt poor european immigrants, plus there's this cool story about a Mohawk.

    What I did not know is that my future, and now former colleagues (revealing how truly ammeter they were at this kind of thing) were actually fishing to see if I had any minority status, cause I'm kinda dark for a white girl. They got all excited about the Mohawk thing because, you see, they had been approved for only one hire, and they wanted to hire two people, so they wanted to see if any of us could be minorities, so that they could make the argument to hire two people.

    I was deeply embarrassed when, upon my second interview, the whole Mohawk thing was probed, to see if I could prove it. Of course I could not. Fortunately, the first two people to whom they made offers declined, and I was offered the job regardless of my non-minority status. Or perhaps it was unfortunate, but that's another story.

    And I am embarrassed to say that I was perplexed, but still not quite onto what they were up to with all the Mohawk stuff, until a few years later, after I had joined the department. You see, we were conducting another search, for one position, and they were trying to make the argument that some Canadian who had a parent from Brazil was a minority, so they could hire two people.

    Anyway, I thought of this when the whole Warren fake Indian thing broke out. I never doubled for a moment that she is of Cherokee decent (she's from friggin' Oklahoma), just as I still to this day am positive that I am of Mohawk decent. But these things are not easily proven. However, our idiotic colleagues in academia will use this info anyway to claim they they have "diverse" faculty.

    So if she loses, I blame Harvard.

  • cld on September 16, 2012 4:52 PM:

    Article wants me to sign up for something.

    Any other place to read it?

  • supporter on September 16, 2012 7:29 PM:

    Am glad this came out. She was being maligned by Republicans on the matter and she is so talented.
    If she doesn't win, she should get a cabinet position or the like when the president is re-elected.

  • esaud on September 17, 2012 9:48 AM:

    You write: "Republican Senator Scott Brown’s stint as a male model was blown out of proportion in his 2010 special election".

    I write: "Huh????"

    I don't have the time today to actually dig out all of the references, but I estimate that the number of heritage stories in the Globe and "Pokahontus" digs in the Herald outnumber any references to Scott Brown's nude centerfold by about 100 to 1.

    And in fact, Scott Brown got (and continues to get) the edge in local TV reporting. The Boston TV market is a really small club, and they consider Brown's wife one of the family.