WBUR

Voters Question Warren’s Embrace Of Minority Heritage

Massachusetts Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate Elizabeth Warren (AP)

BOSTON — Elizabeth Warren, a Harvard law professor and likely Democratic challenger to Republican Sen. Scott Brown, has been defending herself against allegations that she used her Native American heritage to advance her law career.

Warren says she did not know that Harvard touted her as a member of a minority group in the 1990s, when the law school came under criticism for being too white.

But Warren says that when she was growing up in Oklahoma, her family always told her she’s part Cherokee.

“I am very proud of my heritage,” Warren said. “These are my family stories. This is what my brothers and I were told by my mom and my dad, my mammaw and my pappaw. This is our lives. And I’m very proud of it.”

Warren was also identified as a minority in professional legal directories for years. So just how much of a minority is she?

Chris Child has been digging through the Census, birth and death records of Warren’s family. The genealogist eventually unearthed a document stating that Warren’s great-great-great-grandmother was Native American. The document is from the woman’s son.

“In 1894, on his application for a marriage license, he listed his father as Jonathan Houston Crawford and his mother as O.C. Sarah Smith, Cherokee Indian.”

Child said it would take more research to confirm his finding. Some bloggers have been calling on Warren to take a DNA test.

Child said documenting Native American ancestry is a common request at the New England Historic Genealogical Society, where he works.

“Sometimes we’re able to find some evidence. More oftentimes we’re actually not able to find any evidence,” Childs said. “In this particular case, at least we’re dealing with someone who in 1894 who claimed a Cherokee connection, versus just a lot of people today. So that’s one bit of promising information.”

It suggests that Warren is 1/32nd Native American.

Warren Supporter Paul Venecko is disappointed that Warren claimed native heritage at all. The Jamaica Plain man is also American Indian — part Narragansett.

“I’m a quarter, and it’s so far recessed behind me that I really can’t reference it for any particular reason, and I just feel like Elizabeth Warren probably has even less reason,” Venecko said.

Venecko had been planning to vote for Warren. Now he’s less certain.

But for Jeff Richards, of Cambridge, it’s not a big deal.

“What does it matter? Aren’t we all somehow related?” Richards said. “What do they think she’s doing — she’s trying to garner the native vote?”

Some critics are insinuating she may have used her minority status to advance in academia. Warren’s said she doesn’t recall ever talking about her native heritage when applying for faculty jobs, including her current one.

“I believe I was recruited at Harvard because I’m a good teacher,” Warren said.

But the questions aren’t going away.

“Well, I know the media’s been asking a lot of questions,” Sen. Brown said. “I’ve been following it just like you have. So, if there are questions, she should answer them.”

Meanwhile, Warren’s campaign has been calling Brown a hypocrite. Brown has been a vehement opponent of President Obama’s health care overhaul but admitted Monday that his 23-year-old daughter is saving money after college by staying on his congressional health insurance plan — which was made possible by a provision of the health care law he opposes.

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  • Gwenb

    She should be ashamed of herself

    • Sane

      I hope she WINS !

      • Gwenb

        She won’t

    • Suzyq457

      Why? When did she lie? When did she play up the race card? Would you check “white (European)” if you had legitimate native heritage? Wouldn’t that be lying?

      What really don’t you like about Ms. Warren?

  • http://twitter.com/occupyglosta occupyglosta

    @ Gwenb  Not for nuttin ‘Gwen’ but perhaps you can regale us with the name of the person YOUR great,great,great,great,great,great,great,great,great grandmother was married to.
        SO many people have grown up with inaccurate family lore about ‘native american heritage’ in our family trees I wouldn’t be surprised if half the Americans claiming such heritage were mistaken.
        I personally think this is a big “SO WHAT” moment. And this is the kind of low fruit that proves even better than future Ex-Senator Brown’s Karl Rove commercials with make-believe carpenters rebuilding massachusetts (WHERE??????), that he and his campaign pick more low fruit than the agricultural workers of Massachusetts. And THEY, UNLIKE THE SENATOR, EARN THEIR PAY.
        We live in peculiar times. A candidate can be assaulted for something she hasn’t claimed as a professional or campaign asset.
         Want to really solve a social ill? Why not ask every news agency in Massachusetts, including WBUR why they turn a blind eye and ear to ANY candidate for this Senate race who isn’t Brown or Warren. There are two more candidates who are being blacked out.
       I’m a little more concerned about that issue than Professor Warren’s heritage.

    Occupy A Little Freakin Common Sense! Okay People?

  • Gordons76

    HE should be ashamed???? His daughter is on his fancy health care plan that he opposes for YOU!!! What are you thinking?!!

  • Gwenb

    She spent her entire career pretending to be an ethnic minority for personal gain.  Shameful.  

    • http://www.wbur.org/people/fthys Fred Thys

      But isn’t she 1/32 nd Native American?

      • Gwenb

        Well everyone has African American DNA in them so I guess we are all minorities then (about as black as she is indian).  Start using it to your advantage when you fill out forms, mmmkay?

  • Guest

    Give It Up, Whiners.  We IS WHAT WE IS. State the percentage, if you know it and move on.  Whiners and more whiners typing endless drivel. 

    Gwen looks like a bot… with much less brain matter.

    • Gwenb

      Aww.  How mean spirited of you.

      I’ll forgive you for your nasty comments though, because I can understand how frustrating it is when someone you have high hopes for lies and disappoints you.  

  • pslong9

    Who cares?  This is a total non-issue. Why can’t we talk about the real issues that are facing us instead of talking about something that is completely irrelevant to the position that the candidates are running for?

    • Cmdr_Casey_Ryback

      You left out “Bush’s fault.”

      Of course — LYING is OK for (D), not anyone else.

       Ridiculous. Remember this on Nov. 6, when we get rid of the MESS-iah BHO

  • Guest

    I support her education, the career she built and her heritage. Now, I wish to benefit from all her experiences of education, career and heritage.

    Ignore these sad naysayers. 

  • jon1616

    OK, she touts her Native American ancestry and he poses for centerfolds.  They’re even.  Now let’s move on and discuss the issues.

  • X-Ray

    With that standard I can claim kinship with Rudolf von Hapsburg.

  • J__o__h__n

    Not even 1/32 of me cares about this non-issue. 

  • Peter Lake

    I guessing that the people who say it’s a non-issue are the same people who are in favor of minority set-asides.

  • Chance

    Once again we are questioning a politician and who they really are. Even if she is 1/32 untruthful in her dealings as a senator, doesn’t that mean she’s lying as often as, oh say, Bill Clinton!!

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