The Truth About How Elizabeth Warren Used Her 'Native American' Heritage

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren may have thought she put questions about her supposed Native American heritage to rest when she released the results of a DNA test, but this move only put under the microscope the extent to which she has fraudulently used her supposed minority status to advance her career.


According to that DNA test, Warren is between 1/64th and 1/1,024th Native American, making her roughly 0.098% to 1.56% Native American; and not nearly enough to claim membership in the Cherokee Nation, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, or United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee.

"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," said Cherokee Nation Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin, Jr.  "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."

Warren's ancestors, of course, are not well-documented and her heritage has never been proven, but that hasn't stopped her from publicly holding herself out as having Cherokee lineage for her entire adult life and, far worse, using that supposed lineage to advance her career at literally every step.

In 1984, she identified herself as "Elizabeth Warren, Cherokee" when she contributed several recipes to her cousin's cookbook, Pow Wow Chow: A Collection of Recipes from Families of the Five Civilized Tribes: Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek & Seminole.

Three of those recipes were about as genuine as her Cherokee roots, however, as Boston-area radio host Howie Carr determined that two of them were directly plagiarized from an article written by Pierre Franey of the New York Times News Service five years earlier.  Another was lifted directly from a 1959 issue of Better Homes and Gardens.

Hilariously, her husband Bruce Mann--who has never claimed to be Cherokee--identified himself as "Bruce Mann, Cherokee" when he contributed a recipe that was also plagiarized from the Oswego (NY) Palladium Times published the previous year.

Two years after the publication of Pow Wow Chow, Warren was working as a law professor at The University of Texas when she listed herself as a minority law professor in the widely circulated Association of American Law Schools' annual directory.

According to The Boston Globe"the organization debuted its list of minority law professors in the 1986-1987 edition, and Warren’s name appears in bold on page 1055 of the volume. It was listed the same way in each of the next eight editions."

Coincidentally enough, almost immediately after that directory was published, the prestigious University of Pennsylvania, an Ivy League school, renewed its interest in hiring Warren.  In 1984, the school had offered her a one-year position as a visiting professor, but Warren turned it down because she did not want to live apart from her husband.

Now that Penn had reason to believe Warren was a minority professor, though, it pursued her with renewed vigor; waiving its typical requirement of a one-year audition as a visiting professor and offering her a permanent position right off the bat and even going so far as to offer her husband a job as well so she wouldn't have to move without him.

If Warren were really hired solely on her merits, why did Penn's employment offer sweeten so dramatically that the school would waive its usual requirements and even hire her husband just to get her?

Perhaps because it proudly touted her as a minority professor for at least three years she was teaching there and highlighted that fact when she won a teaching award in 1994.

This was not insignificant in the early to mid-1990s, when diversity on college and law school campuses became a major issue.  In 1990, Harvard University's first black law school professor, Derrick Bell, "requested a leave of absence without pay until Harvard appoints a tenured black woman to its law faculty.

"Often regarded as the nation's leading law school, Harvard has been embroiled in a dispute over hiring more minority teachers and women for the faculty," The New York Times reported at the time.  "Earlier this month, large groups of students staged two overnight sit-ins in the office of the dean of the Law School, Robert C. Clark, to protest the small number of women and members of minority groups on the faculty."

The following year, the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination ruled that Harvard had discriminated against professor Clare Dalton on the basis of her gender when it denied her tenure.

Against this backdrop and with Warren still listed as a minority woman in the Association of American Law Schools' phone directory, Harvard decided it wanted to hire her as a visiting professor in 1992.

Interestingly enough, when Warren was hired at Harvard--just like when she was hired at Penn--she marked "Caucasian" on her hiring documents.  Supporters claim that this is evidence that she did not seek to benefit from her supposed minority status, but it is just as likely that Warren would have done so because she did not want to lie about her background on an official school document.  Doing so could have resulted in serious consequences, including termination of her employment.

She was, however, clearly telling Harvard officials that she was a Native American when she took a permanent position with the school in 1995. 

“In compiling the statistics for the annual Affirmative Action report for the University, I spoke with Professor Warren about her ethnic status,” The Boston Globe quotes Harvard assistant dean Sue Robinson as writing to colleagues after Warren was hired. “She stated that she self-identifies as a Native American.”

According to the Globe, Harvard listed Warren as Native American from 1995 to 2004 and even used her ethnicity to make the case that the school did not need to diversify its faculty any further.

“Although the conventional wisdom among students and faculty is that the Law School faculty includes no minority women, [Harvard spokesman Michael] Chmura said Professor of Law Elizabeth Warren is Native American,” read an article in The Harvard Crimson in 1996

In 1997, Lauren Padilla published an article in the Fordham University Law Review in which she wrote that "there are few women of color who hold important positions in the academy, Fortune 500 companies, or other prominent fields or industries. 

"This is not inconsequential. Diversifying these arenas, in part by adding qualified women of color to their ranks, remains important for many reasons. For one, there are scant women of color as role models. In my three years at Stanford Law School, there were no professors who were women of color. Harvard Law School hired its first woman of color, Elizabeth Warren, in 1995."

A year later, Chmura wrote a letter to The New York Times in which he asserted that Harvard had hired "eight women, including a Native American" in an effort to defend the school against charges that it lacked diversity.

Three days after that letter was published The Harvard Crimson wrote, "Harvard Law School currently has only one tenured minority woman, Gottlieb Professor of Law Elizabeth Warren, who is Native American."

For the remainder of Warren's time at Harvard, the school listed her as its lone Native American professor.

When she left the faculty to run for the U.S. Senate in 2012, her alleged Cherokee heritage fit perfectly in her personal narrative about overcoming adversity.  She often told the story of her parents' elopement--necessitated by her father's family's racism against her mother's Native American heritage.

She even repeated the story in a video released Monday announcing her DNA test results. 


"My daddy always said he fell head over heels in love with my mother the first time he saw her," Warren says in the video. "But my daddy’s parents, the Herrings, were bitterly opposed to their marrying because my mother’s family, the Reeds, was part native American.

"This sort of discrimination was common at the time, so when my mama was 19 and my daddy was 20, they eloped. And together they built a family, my three older brothers and me."

Cherokee genealogist Twila Barnes researched this anecdote, though, and found it highly implausible.

"I don't believe it's true," she told FOX News host Tucker Carlson.  "They were married by a prominent minister in a town maybe 15 miles away.  He was prominent enough that he basically put that religion in Oklahoma and helped found a college there.  I don't think he would have done a wedding for two kids who ran away and eloped and whose parents didn't approve.  

"Also, Elizabeth Warren's father had at least one brother and one sister who also just went and had small weddings the same way.  I just think it's the way their family did things at the time.  I don't think it was an elopement."

Of course, everyone has family stories that may be more legend than fact, and Elizabeth Warren may well be no different.  However, at every step of her career, she used legend as fact to pass herself off as a Native American and take advantage of employers eager to hire a minority woman.  

She told them she was a minority woman when she clearly knew she wasn't.  She told them anyway, though, in what is perhaps the most cynical and sickening form of cultural appropriation and outright fraud.   

Dan O'Donnell

Dan O'Donnell

Common Sense Central is edited by WISN's Dan O'Donnell. Dan provides unique conservative commentary and analysis of stories that the mainstream media often overlooks. Read more


Content Goes Here