Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren is providing the fullest explanation thus far of why she once listed herself as American Indian, and then stopped doing so.
Warren listed herself in the directory of the Association of American Law Schools as American Indian from 1986 to 1995.
"And I listed myself in the directory in the hopes that it might mean that I would be invited to a luncheon, a group, something that might happen with people who are like I am," she told reporters in a credit union in Braintree. "Nothing like that ever happened. That was clearly not the use for it. And so I stopped checking it off. That was it."
Warren said she grew up hearing about her American Indian heritage from her family.
"I have lived in a family that has talked about Native Americans and talked about tribes since I have been a little girl," she said. "I still have a picture on my mantle at home, and it's a picture my mother had before that, a picture of my grandfather, and my Aunt Bee has walked by that picture at least 1,000 times, remarked that he, that her father, my papa, had high cheekbones like all of the Indians do, because that's how she saw it."
Genealogical records suggest Warren is at least 1/32nd Cherokee. The campaign of Republican Scott Brown has raised questions about whether she used that distant heritage to advance her career in academia to the detriment of more deserving American Indians. But Warren said her ethnic background has never been a factor in her employment.
"Look, I worked hard for everything I have done," she said. "I am a hard-working teacher. I have won teaching awards. I have written books that have won acclaim. I have gotten out there and done everything I know to do as a law professor. I applied for one job in 1978 by letter, and every job I've had since then has been from someone recruiting me into that job, and they have come to me and said, and they have now said publicly, 'Because of your work, we'd like you to come here. We'd like you to come to the University of Texas, and Penn,' and so on."
Warren was hired by Harvard from the University of Pennsylvania in 1995, the same year she stopped listing herself in the law school directory as American Indian. Her ethnic background first came up in 1996, when Harvard Law School told the Harvard Crimson, the student newspaper, that she was Native American.
WBUR asked the school what data it was relying on when it called Warren a Native American, but the school did not respond.