Elizabeth Warren is not Native American

By Jaime Watts, Columnist

Senator Elizabeth Warren recently took a DNA test proving her Native American ancestry. She did this to prove a point to President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly called her “Pocahontas” and said that he would donate money to charity if she proved she was in fact Native American. The test revealed that she does have a native ancestor between six and 10 generations back.

This act seemed to imply she is running for the 2020 presidential election, and she used this to further step into the public eye. This actually hurt her chances and hurt her reflection in the Democratic Party.

In order for a Democrat to beat President Trump, the candidate needs to appeal to middle of the road voters and not pull petty stunts like this. She stooped to President Trump’s level of ridiculousness, and in the end, Trump did not follow through with that donation. Instead, it only rallied his supporters more, and it actually does little for Native American voices to be heard in politics.

Many tribes have criticized her for this DNA test. The leader of the Cherokee Nation said DNA tests are not helpful in determining tribal citizenship. Twyla Baker, an educator and citizen of the Three Affiliated Tribes of North Dakota, also criticized Warren.

According to NBC, Baker has stated Warren’s “types of claims can damage the validity and work of indigenous people who are living their identities every day. It also lays the groundwork to do serious damage to our sovereignty, as tribes are responsible for defining who is a tribal citizen.”

There is a difference between ancestry and tribal citizenship. This is something Warren failed to recognize when she first announced her DNA test. Native Americans typically find their identity through their citizenship in a tribe. To seek citizenship, people use “family ties” to the tribe and historic documents as a way to determine it — not a DNA test.

Warren using DNA to claim her ancestry is clearly not the standard. She did prove that it is in her DNA, but she shouldn’t be representing Native Americans because she has not experienced the same hardships they have; she has the privilege of being a white woman in America. Warren even listed herself as a minority in an Association of American Law Schools directory at Harvard Law School.

Warren stated she is proud of her ancestry and the stories she has been told about her ancestry through her family. While this is fine to be proud of, it is not something she needs to prove for political gain. Hoping she might rally the Native American vote, she may have turned them against her in the process. It is not something the Democratic Party needs right now. They should have a candidate who fights for the rights of Native Americans, but not a candidate who trivializes their identity.

She can still use this as a time to shed light on the problems Native Americans experience. According to a 2017 article by The Guardian, about 55 percent of the 11,000 members of the Northern Arapaho in Wyoming are homeless. There are still sports teams, such as the Redskins, that only stir the pot with controversial mascots. Warren should use her political power to further bring these issues to light instead of focusing on unnecessary issues.

We should take this time to educate ourselves on the Native Americans, a consistently overlooked demographic in America. Warren’s DNA test may become a positive thing if people begin to educate themselves and if more Native American voices join the political conversation. Here on campus, there is the Native American House that hosts free events. They will also be celebrating Native American Heritage Month on November 1.

It is important we take this time to learn more about the community and learn how we can support them. Everyone needs a voice in this country, and everyone needs to be represented in politics. A senator taking a DNA test to prove an irrelevant point is not the way to go about this.

Jaime is a junior in LAS.

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