- Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Principal Chief Richard Sneed issued a statement on Tuesday largely supporting Sen. Elizabeth Warren after she took a DNA test to prove her Native American ancestry.
- Sneed’s statement proved a contrast to the statement released by the Cherokee Nation, one of the two other federally recognized Cherokee tribes, which called Warren’s test “inappropriate and wrong.”
- President Donald Trump mocked her with the nickname “Pocahontas” and accused her of not being Native American for years.
The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians issued a statement largely supporting Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s recent DNA test to confirm her Native American ancestry – breaking with another tribe that called the move “inappropriate and wrong.”
Eastern Band Principal Chief Richard Sneed said in a statement to Business Insider on Tuesday that while they “strongly condemn” people who try to pass off distant Native ancestry as their race, they don’t believe that Warren has appropriated their culture.
“Senator Elizabeth Warren does not claim to be a citizen of any tribal nation, and she is not a citizen of the Eastern Band,” he said. “Like many other Americans, she has a family story of Cherokee and Delaware ancestry and evidence of Native ancestry.”
Sneed went on to say that Warren “has not used her family story or evidence of Native ancestry to gain employment or other advantage” and that “on the contrary, she demonstrates respect for tribal sovereignty.”
He pointed to several initiatives the Massachusetts Democrat has pushed to help Native Americans, such as helping his tribe get back historical sites in Tennessee.
“Senator Warren has demonstrated her respect for tribal sovereignty and is an ally of the Eastern Band. As such, we support her and other allies – regardless of party – who promote tribal sovereignty, tribal self-determination, and protection of Cherokee women,” Sneed said.
Disagreement among the Cherokee tribes
But Sneed provides the opinion of just one of the three federally recognized Cherokee tribes, the other two being the Cherokee Nation and the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians.
The Cherokee Nation’s response on Monday was far sterner, calling Warren’s DNA report “useless” because the tests can’t even differentiate between North and South American native ancestry.
“Using a DNA test to lay claim to any connection to the Cherokee Nation or any tribal nation, even vaguely, is inappropriate and wrong,” Cherokee Nation Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. said.
He continued: “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.”
The United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians released a more measured response, pointing out again that DNA can’t prove tribal membership but that they “appreciate Elizabeth Warren’s enthusiasm for Native America.”
A story that has haunted Warren for years
Warren released the results of the DNA test on Monday – which shows that she likely had a Native American ancestor six to 10 generations ago – after years of bullying from President Donald Trump, who has mocked her with the nickname “Pocahontas” and accused her of pretending to be a minority to get ahead in her career.
The accusation has haunted Warren, who is forecast to run in the Democratic primary for the 2020 presidential election, since 2012, when a Boston Globe report revealed that she had changed her race to Native American while teaching at Harvard Law School in the 1980s and ’90s.
While she couldn’t provide evidence of her alleged Native ancestry, her brothers defended her in a joint statement, saying they had been raised with stories of their family’s Cherokee and Delaware native heritage.