Aug 19, 2019 - Politics & Policy

Elizabeth Warren to Native Americans: "I am sorry"

2020 contender Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) told a forum of Native American voters in Iowa Monday that she's "sorry" for harm she's caused the community.

Between the lines: According the Des Moines Register's Ledyard King and Shelby Fleig, 2020 Democrats are heavily courting Native American voters in swing states like Michigan, Wisconsin, Arizona and North Carolina.

"Now, before I go any further in this, I want to say this: Like anyone who's been honest with themselves, I know that I have made mistakes. I am sorry for harm I have caused. I have listened and I have learned, a lot. And I am grateful for the many conversations that we've had together. It is a great honor to be able to partner with Indian Country, and that’s what I’ve tried to do as a senator and that’s what I promise I will do as president of the United States of America."
— Warren

The big picture: Warren has drawn backlash in recent years for overselling her Native American ancestry. As a senator, Warren claimed that Cherokee ancestry was a recurring point in her family's stories and that she was "proud" of the relation, but many questioned the claim.

  • A DNA test later showed Warren to be between 1/32 and 1/1,024 Native American, with "strong evidence" indicating she had a Native American ancestor 6–10 generations ago.

The heritage claim had become a point of jeering for President Trump, who nicknamed her "Pocahontas" and claimed she had used a false minority status to get her former teaching role at Harvard Law School.

  • In a 1996 letter responding to criticism of a lack of minority women at the university, Harvard did dub Warren as Native American.
  • Warren also claimed minority status in 1986 when registering for the Texas State Bar Association.
  • There is no indication that the claim ever had an influence on Warren’s employment, per a Boston Globe investigation last year.

Of note: According to reporting from The Intercept's Ryan Grim, Warren had already apologized privately to Cherokee leadership.

Go deeper: Elizabeth Warren on the issues, in under 500 words

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