While tribal citizenry and membership are important they still aren't enough to make one Indigenous.
By Jen Deerinwater
When I first heard that Senator Elizabeth Warren was Tsalagi (Cherokee) I was beyond excited. What a blessing it was to finally have a Native senator and one from my tribal nation at that. However, after looking further into her claims I realized that she simply wasn't Tsalagi. She was merely another pretendian trying to spice up her white bread life through false claims to an experience she's never had.
Sen. Warren's claims to the Cherokee and Delaware nations first came to light during her 2012 race for Senate seat in Massachusetts. It brewed a storm of controversy and anti-Native hate speech from then Sen. Scott Brown that still has not ceased. Since running for office, President Trump and his followers have repeatedly used racial slurs such as “squaw” and “Pocahontas” to disparage Warren for her lies. While Trump's comments are a slap in the face to all Indigenous women, so are Warren's false claims of Indigeniety.
In 2010, Native People represented approximately 1.7% of the U.S. population. There are many non-Natives, particularly those of Oklahoma, who have been told stories of great-great-great-grandmas who were “Cherokee princesses.” My mom, who is white, has told me that we might have Native ancestry in her family, but thankfully she knows not to claim a nation and community that is not her own. My Tsalagi roots are through my father and I would never claim Indigeniety via my mom based off little more than family tales.
David Cornsilk (United Keetowah Band of Cherokee Indians and Cherokee Nation) is a Cherokee genealogist and historian who has reviewed the research by Twila Barnes on Warren's family tree. According to Cornsilk, Warren is neither Cherokee nor Delaware. Between 1817 and 1909 there were 30 rolls taken of the Cherokee people by the federal, states, local, and tribal governments. “Cherokees are among the best documented people in the world, right up there with European royalty and Mormons.” If a genuinely Tsalagi person doesn't have ancestors on the Dawes Roll their direct and collateral ancestors will still be in one and often more of the rolls.
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