Streetwise Professor

October 15, 2018

Elizabeth Warren’s Indian Heritage: From Absence of Evidence, to Evidence of Absence

Filed under: History,Politics — cpirrong @ 7:41 pm

Elizabeth Warren’s DNA test showing that she is infinitesimally Indian has supposedly put her in the pole position for the Democratic presidential nomination.  Well, that might be true, actually, for the whole episode shows that she’s a raving loon, which is a prerequisite for an aspiring Democrat these days.

The test results allegedly show “strong evidence” of Amerind heritage.  What they actually show is strong evidence of a trivial connection: that is, she provided strong evidence of how farcical and exaggerated her previous claims were.

The Cherokee Nation’s response brings to mind the punchline to the old joke about the Lone Ranger and Tonto: “what you mean ‘we’, paleface?”:

“Using a DNA test to lay claim to any connection to the Cherokee Nation or any tribal nation, even vaguely, is inappropriate and wrong,” said Chuck Hoskin Jr., the tribe’s secretary of state.

“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.”

. . . .

“A DNA test is useless to determine tribal citizenship,” Hoskin said in the statement Monday, which was released by the tribe. “Current DNA tests do not even distinguish whether a person’s ancestors were indigenous to North or South America.

“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.”

This is particularly important because Warren did not just claim some non-specific Native American heritage: she expressly identified herself as Cherokee.  On multiple occasions.  Actual Cherokees say “don’t bring that mess in here.”

Warren clearly believes this test provides vindication.  In fact, it makes her a laughingstock.  The test itself is dubious, on multiple grounds.  The connection is six to ten generations in the past: to put in context, my ancestor a mere seven generations back, incidentally the last white man killed by an Indian in Washington County, Ohio, was tomahawked in . . . 1794.  (Perhaps I should sue for a hate crime violation. Has the statute of limitations elapsed?) Further, as alluded to in the Cherokee Nation statement, the genetic test inferred Warren’s ancestry, such as it is, from South American genes (Peruvian, Columbian) because North American Indian DNA samples are lacking (precisely because they are adamantly opposed to people–like, say, Elizabeth Warren?–using DNA test results to claim Indian heritage).  Moreover, the average American of European ancestry has as much or more Indian DNA as Warren.  Meaning that Liz is pretty much your average white person.  Only whiter.

Beyond the levity, there are serious issues here.  Warren used her claimed Native American heritage to advance her academic career.  She did so repeatedly, and with specificity–for instance, the story (ludicrous in light of the “strong evidence” Liz trumpeted today) that her mother’s appearance was so Indian that she had to elope due to the racism of her husband’s parents.  (But hey, Liz’s mom was twice as much Indian as Liz!)  At whose expense did she advance?

Further her story about her mother, she specifically claimed that mom was part Cherokee and Delaware.  Which would require two Indian ancestors–which her DNA test has ruled out.  The DNA test gives a “fail” to this story on another ground.  A Delaware-Cherokee union would have been possible, say, post-1860s, when the Delawares were moved to the Indian Territory from points east, and settled within Cherokee territories.  But Liz’s own DNA evidence puts her Indian ancestor no less than six generations back–roughly the end of the 18th century or early-19th century–and perhaps as far as 10 generations back–sometime early in the 18th century.  But at the later date the Delawares were in Ohio (fighting my ancestors!) and the Cherokees were in the Carolinas–not much of a chance of a tryst there.  At the later date, the Delawares were along, well, the Delaware River in New Jersey and New York, with some on Long Island, and the Cherokees were in the Carolinas.  Even less of a chance of a coupling.

But bah to such pesky details! Two prestigious universities–Penn and Harvard–touted her as a “person of color” to establish their diversity bona fides.   It is clear that both she and they did so shamelessly and self-interestedly in the complete absence of evidence.  Then there was an absence of evidence: now there is evidence of absence.

In other words, Elizabeth Warren is an opportunistic fraud, and Ivy League universities were accessories.

Which perhaps means that indeed, she is well-suited to be the Democratic front runner.

Run, Liz! Run! In your desperate search for validation, you just provided Trump with even more ammunition to ridicule you until the cows come home–if they ever do.* Meaning that you could be ridiculed for-evah.

*If you read the link regarding my ancestor Abel Sherman, you’ll learn that he was waylaid and scalped while searching for a wayward cow who had wandered off while Abel and his family were hunkered down in a fort at Olive Green (near the junction of the Ohio and Muskingum Rivers) to defend themselves against Indian raids. So sometimes the cows don’t come home.

To extend the riff, TV’s Tonto was portrayed by Jay Silverheels.  Abel Sherman was killed by a Shawnee named . . . Silverheels.  Whom I’m sure would have been far more likely to scalp Warren, then embrace her as a compatriot.

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  1. Let’s see: apparently Elizabeth Warren has 0.1-1.6% Native American DNA.

    That means she is 98.4 – 99.9% not Native American.

    If Elizabeth Warren can claim to be Native American with an average of 99.2% not Native American DNA, then virtually every single American with US ancestry going back to the 19th century is likely able to make the same claim; whether they’re black, white or Asian Americans. They probably all have 0.1-1.6% Native American DNA. Such is the wonderfulness of intermarriage and gene-flow.

    Most white Americans with 19th century US ancestors likely contain 0.1-1.6% genes from African Americans, too. By Elizabeth Warren’s standards, they can now all claim to be African American and ascend to their high status as oppressed people from the social justice crowd.

    On the other hand, most black Americans who have 19th century US ancestors almost certainly have at least 0.1-1.6% Caucasian genes in their DNA. By Elizabeth Warren’s standard, they can all claim to be Caucasians.

    So, there we are. By Elizabeth Warren’s standards, white Americans are black, black Americans are white, and all of them are Native Americans. That’s how stupid her logic is.

    Comment by [email protected] — October 15, 2018 @ 7:52 pm

  2. @pedric–Well put!

    Comment by cpirrong — October 15, 2018 @ 8:04 pm

  3. Spot on, except the comparison of dingbat Warren to a loon, a magnificent bird.

    Comment by Eric — October 15, 2018 @ 9:48 pm

  4. On my first visit to the US, decades ago, I met lots of distant relatives and their friends. I was struck that claims of a little bit of Injun “blood” were quite common.

    By contrast my father claimed – I assumed largely in jest – that “we” were really Vikings. Recently an offspring of mine had a DNA test: a wee bit of Scandinavian showed up.
    So I am, it would appear, more of a Viking than the Law Squaw is of a Cherokee. She’d better be careful: my battle-axe will trump her tomahawk.

    Comment by dearieme — October 16, 2018 @ 4:54 am

  5. She has also blown the “race is a social construct” thing, demonstrating that a medical test can determine trace elements of a race in DNA. Awkward.

    Comment by Rob — October 16, 2018 @ 5:31 am

  6. Is there ever a case where a Democrat makes a fool of themselves, and the media doesn’t try to cover? The media’s behavior has been predictably reprehensible.

    I lol’d at this one:

    Comment by Max — October 16, 2018 @ 7:52 am

  7. got this from a friend – web site of a Cherokee woman. She has 82 posts on Elizabeth Warren,starting out a few years back, and she has it exactly right on tribal sovereignty, etc.:

    from March 2018:————

    To be very clear, despite everything Warren said and promised in her speech to the National Congress of American Indians and despite all her new efforts to support Indian country through legislation, she is not taking a pro-Indian position because she continues to claim she’s Native American while admitting she is not enrolled.

    Those who continue to insist Warren take a DNA test to “settle the issue” are not taking a pro-Indian position either. DNA doesn’t define who is or is not an Indian. Only tribes can do that. To say anything else, including DNA, determines who is or is not Indian is a political attack on tribal sovereignty. The three Cherokee Indian nations who have government to government relationships with the United States have said Warren is not Cherokee. That should have been the end of it. Unfortunately it wasn’t.

    The genealogy of Warren has been done and shows no indication of Cherokee, Delaware, or any other Indian nation ancestry. The genealogy along with the fact no legitimate Indian nation claims her should have been the end of it. Unfortunately it wasn’t.

    Now we have no choice but to address the areas of family lore and DNA. This is where it gets ugly and I’m not happy that I feel I need to write about it. I will not get into a discussion of DNA as a whole. Warren’s family lore is very specific and her claim hinges on one person as a racially ‘full blooded Cherokee.’ That person and their origins will be the sole focus of my discussion of DNA.

    I’m a genealogist who adheres to the Standards for Sound Genealogical Practices adopted by the Board for the Certification of Professional Genealogists. The research our team did documents Warren’s lineage back to Preston Crawford, a white man who was born in Tennessee and died in Missouri. At this time, no credible documentation has been found that conclusively lists the names of the parents of Preston Crawford.

    Sadly, Warren doesn’t care about documentation or facts. She’s based her entire claim to being Cherokee or Native American on a family story that says Preston Crawford’s parents were Jonathon Crawford and “Sarah” Neoma (Oma) Smith. This same story continues by declaring Neoma Smith as the daughter of Wyatt Smith and sister of William Bracken Smith.

    Because this purported lineage is strictly based on a family story found in a newsletter written by an amateur genealogist, I want to make it clear that we are discussing lore, not a lineage supported by documentation. Normally I’d ignore the lore but because Warren is dead set on continuing this claim, further examination of this family story is necessary.

    According to the lore, Neoma Smith was a (racially) full blood Cherokee Indian. Warren and her supporters appear to believe this (racially) full blood ancestor allows Warren to claim Native American heritage and that it gave her the right to claim minority status as a Harvard Law professor.

    Let’s give Warren and her supporters the benefit of the doubt on this lineage. Let’s allow them to continue to claim Warren’s documented ancestor, Preston Crawford, was the son of a Jonathon Crawford and Neoma Smith, the daughter of Wyatt Smith.

    Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s drop the demand for Warren to take a DNA test. I explained above why I don’t support it, but there’s another reason the demand should be dropped. We don’t need it to learn about Warren’s alleged Cherokee ancestor.

    The Y-DNA from Wyatt Smith’s male descendants has already been tested by at least one of Warren’s purported Smith male cousins, a descendant of William Bracken Smith.

    William Bracken Smith was the son of Wyatt Smith and alleged brother of Neoma Smith Crawford. The Y-DNA test traces the direct descent of males only–son to father to father’s father to father’s father’s father and so on. Apparently Y-DNA changes slowly over time so the same DNA is passed from one male to the next with few mutations (differences) occurring.

    The only people that can produce a “racially” full blood Indian child are two other “racially” full blood Indians. If Neoma were “racially” a full blood Indian as the family lore says, then Wyatt Smith would have had to be a “racially” full blood Indian as well. He wasn’t. The results of the Y-DNA test taken by Smith’s descendant indicated Wyatt Smith’s haplogroup was R-M269, the dominant branch of R1b in Western Europe.

    I’m no DNA expert but it defies logic to believe a man with origins in Western Europe fathered a “racially” full blood Indian daughter. The Y-DNA of Wyatt Smith, Warren’s purported ancestor, combined with the facts no legitimate Indian nation claims Warren and that her genealogy indicates no Indian ancestry should be the end of it. I fear it won’t be.

    So America, there you have it–a DNA test that gives information on the origins of one of Warren’s purported “full blood” Cherokee ancestors. Take the information and do with it what you will. As I said above, it’s a can of worms I’d rather have left sealed, but enough is enough. If Warren wants to continue with this family story that her alleged Smith ancestors were Cherokee, then she must take everything that goes along with it, including the DNA results. Wyatt Smith’s paternal origins are from Western Europe. He was not a “racially” full blood Indian. Therefore he could not have fathered a “racially” full blood Indian child.

    In closing, I’d like to reiterate that DNA does not, in any way, determine who is or is not considered Native American. There is no DNA test that can determine that. Indian nations determine citizenship just like the United States determines who is American. Americans would never dream of requesting someone get a DNA test to prove they are American. Instead, they might ask to see one’s proof or documentation of citizenship in the United States. We in Indian Country understand that. We wish Americans could give our Indian nations the same respect. We are not a race of people that can simply take a DNA test and show we are citizens of one of the various tribes throughout the US. We are citizens of nations and the way we prove it is the exact same way Americans prove they are citizens of the U.S. We provide documentation.

    Comment by elmer — October 17, 2018 @ 7:49 am

  8. @elmer–Very informative. Thanks for posting it.

    The Y-chromosome evidence is very powerful. Like the post said, that should have been the end of the story. It was a rigorous test of a specific hypothesis about Liz’s ancestry based on her account of “family lore,” and that hypothesis was rejected. Science!

    One thing about this article, and several others by Indians criticizing Warren (such as this one) are very adamant about what does not constitute legitimate proof of Indian heritage–and a DNA test does not (an indeed they are adamant that DNA evidence should not even be considered in making the judgment). They are less clear on exactly what does. It seems like the Potter Stewart definition of pornography: “I know it when I see it.” And the “I” that is qualified to make the judgment is an Indian–which is rather circular.

    Comment by cpirrong — October 17, 2018 @ 5:00 pm

  9. SWP – I hope this helps. I think the criteria are not laid out in some instances because of media space limitations, or because the criteria are delineated elsewhere.

    These are Cherokee Nation criteria, not federal statutory criteria:

    Comment by elmer — October 17, 2018 @ 6:43 pm

  10. It escapes me why Warren would ever want to do such a thing. Isn’t empirical evidence an oppressive cis hetero white supremacist concept?

    Comment by Ivan — October 18, 2018 @ 1:17 am

  11. With respect to the death of your ancestor Abel, I assure you, the Shawnee, including Silverheels was in the Ohio valley many centuries before your ancestors got off some boat from the Old Continent. Does that mean he was right to kill Abel, out searching for his wayward cow? I guess that would be a matter of perspective. Were I and my ancestors living in the ‘New World’ for many centuries, and someone like Abel came along taking over lands, and running cattle – I might be inclined to take a scalp, and the cow for good measure.

    BTW, nice uptake on the Sacajewarren mishigoss.

    Comment by doc — October 22, 2018 @ 3:11 pm

  12. @doc–I’m not sore about it. I get it. Silverheels’ actions are perfectly understandable.

    As were the actions of Abel’s son. So, as Paul Harvey used to say, here’s the rest of the story. A year or so after Abel’s murder, Silverheels chanced upon a logging camp. He got into his cups around the campfire, and regaled the loggers with the tale of his killing and scalping of a white man he chanced upon in the woods. Unbeknownst to Silverheels, one of the loggers was Abel’s son. Silverheels was found not long later, shot through the heart. Connect the dots.

    What happened to the Indians, especially in the South and Old Northwest, was that they were overwhelmed by a great folk movement of more numerous and technologically advanced people. It is something that has happened since time immemorial. Including when some Indian tribes displaced others.

    EG. The Sioux were pushed west into Wisconsin by the Iroquois, and exterminated the Wicosowan. The Sioux allied with French traders, and pushed west, where they fought against the Crows, Pawnees, and others. The Pawnee fought the Comanches, Arapaho, and Kiowas too. These are just a smattering of examples. Inter-tribal warfare was a feature of Indian life since forever. (And this was something Europeans exploited time and again, by the way.)

    I am always amused by those who talk about Indian warriors in near worshipful tones, and at the same time excoriate Europeans. Uhm, where did warrior culture come from? It came from fighting other Indians.

    The Europeans were just another tribe (or tribes). Tribes that just happened to be far more powerful than the Indians they fought (who had usually gained “their” land by displacing–or killing–other Indians).

    I therefore don’t view Indian-European relations as some sort of morality tale. Reverse the situation, and the Indians would have had zero compunction about exterminating Europeans.

    The whole Romantic view of Indians is, like most Romanticism, fundamentally flawed, and another poisoned fruit of Rousseau’s twisted tree.

    Comment by cpirrong — October 23, 2018 @ 6:25 pm

  13. I guess what goes around, came around. I’m far from a romantic, or defender of all things native American. Your analogy, or rationalization of the EU vs Amer indian is rather flawed when compared to inter-indian strife. Of course, this type of stuff goes back to antiquity, and at the beginning of recorded time. The Romans in N Africa, Ottoman turks across salient of Asia, etc. The white expansion across the American continent was not exclusively violent when compared to other overtaking campaigns in history. It still does not make it right, nor does it compare to the various skirmishes between tribes. I happen to live in Parker TX. A name from history of the tribal leader Quanah Parker, son of Cynthia Ann Parker, kidnapped as a young girl by the Comanche, one of the more notorious tribes of the central west.

    We were supposed to be better than that. We were supposed to be fine, English/French/Spanish gentlemen. We(whites) quickly took over the means and methods of the various tribes, and did them one better(or worse, as it might be more accurate). Also, we were non-discriminatory in our wholesale slaughter. The Montauk, and the Iroquois, and a few other tribes were actually putting down a regular govt, with something like representative peoples charters when the EU invaders stepped in and killed, or drove off pretty much anyone with a darker shade of skin. This was a no-no even back in the mid-1500s, and before.

    This has special relativity at this time, as we are prepared to be invaded from the south by a angry mob attempting to change our way of life(or destroy us, whichever suits), and we will defend ourselves. That’s all I was trying to say with the comment about seeing Silverheels POV in doing Abel as he saw was his right. Silverheels was defending the land, and homestead. There were no fences in this continent until the EU’s moved in. The idea of private property was more anarchic until whites got here. Yes, we were far more advanced. Yes, I’m saying we enforced a manifest destiny that was irresponsible when viewed from the point of view of the non-peaceful sometimes natives.

    For your reading pleasure; Empire of the Summer Moon. Gwynne. A fascinating real life paean in literal form. It was brutal on both sides. Fortunately, my relatives were still in central EU until the late 1700s, so I’m completely innocent. (haha)

    Comment by doc — October 24, 2018 @ 11:18 pm

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