Readers will know the background already: Elizabeth Warren claimed to be Native American while she was a law professor at Harvard despite (a) appearing about as Anglo-white as one can appear and (b) having scant evidence that her claim of Native American heritage was true. She cited family lore about being Cherokee and having “high cheekbones” as proof of her heritage. Donald Trump memorably dubbed her “Pocahontas” (the original conservative joke was Fauxcahontas) and said he would donate $1 million if she could prove she was Native American.
Warren finally produced that proof and now demands that Trump pay up.
While she can point to no specific ancestor or tribe, according to genetic test results released by Warren to the Boston Globe, the Massachusetts senator did in fact have a Native American ancestor . . . between 6 and 10 generations back. Her Native American ancestry is so distant, it turns out, that her closest Native American ancestor might actually have been Pocahontas. She is 1/64th Native American at most, and may be as little as 1/1024th Native American.
In other words, she ain’t Native American, as the term is normally understood. Of course, that didn’t stop her fans in the media from pretending the test vindicated her preposterous claim: “Elizabeth Warren Fights Trump’s ‘Pocahontas’ Taunt with DNA Test Proving Native American Roots,” ran a Daily Beast headline. “Elizabeth Warren releases DNA results indicating she has Native American heritage,” announced NBC News. Commentators for the Washington Post and Slate, meanwhile, sidestepped the central fact of the story—namely that Warren once again looks like a fool—and preferred to insist that the “Pocahontas” nickname is somehow a racial slur.
Millions of ordinary Americans can of course claim as much Native American heritage as Warren and wouldn’t think to trade on such a meager connection—much less contribute a plagiarized recipe to a cookbook called Pow Wow Chow, as Warren once did. The Cherokee Nation, for its part, issued a statement saying Warren’s stunt “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.”
The funniest part of the whole silly dispute is that Warren thought she could silence the jokes about her once and for all by revealing “evidence” that, when looked at for more than five seconds, proved her claim was laughable. Like many a politician before her, she seems to think that if she keeps defending herself from ridicule, the charge will go away. It won’t. She is Pocahontas, in perpetuity.