That “Pocahontas” taunt must have rankled.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s release Monday of a DNA analysis that she does indeed have Native American ancestry is a pointed pushback to Donald Trump’s derisive nickname for her. It also looks like an attempt by the Massachusetts Democrat to defuse the issue ahead of a potential 2020 challenge to Trump.
A look at what’s known about Warren and her Native American heritage.
WHY WARREN’S ANCESTRY MATTERS
The first-term Democratic senator’s critics have accused Warren of advancing her career by claiming minority status as a descendant of Cherokee and Delaware tribes. Warren, 69, was born in Oklahoma and went on to become a professor at Harvard Law School.
It’s not clear Warren’s hiring there or anywhere else had anything to do with her heritage. She’s denied using it to get ahead.
Warren acknowledged that she had identified herself as a minority in a legal directory for nearly a decade, and she was listed as a Native American in federal forms filed by the law schools at Harvard University and University of Pennsylvania where she worked, The Boston Globe reported in 2012.
Harvard University’s decision to hire Warren as a law professor in the 1990s was not based on any assertion that she has Native American heritage, The Globe found. The newspaper reported that interviews and documents show the issue was not considered by Harvard Law faculty or those who admitted Warren to law school at Rutgers or to jobs at The University of Houston, The University of Texas, and the University of Pennsylvania.
THE DNA TEST
The DNA analysis Warren released Monday provides strong evidence she does have Native American heritage. It was done by Stanford University professor Carlos D. Bustamante, a prominent expert in the field.
In a five-minute, campaign-style video, Warren asks him: “The president likes to call my mom a liar. What do the facts say?”
Bustamante replies: “The facts suggest that you absolutely have Native American ancestry in your pedigree.” He says the test carries an error rate of “less than one in 1,000.”
Bustamante determined Warren’s pure Native American ancestor appears “in the range of six to 10 generations ago.”
The analysis is not the first evidence of Warren’s heritage. An 1894 document previously unearthed by the New England Genealogical Society suggested Warren’s great-great-great-grandmother, O.C. Sarah Smith, was at least partially Native American, making the senator as much as 1/32nd Native American.
The genealogy group has said it has no conclusive evidence of her ancestry, and a spokesman said Monday it would not comment on the genetic findings.
If Warren’s ancestor were six generations removed, she would be 1/64th Native American. But if her ancestor had been as much as 10 generations removed, that would make the individual a great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandparent and render Warren only 1/1,024th Native American, according to Blaine Bettinger, a genealogist and author who specializes in DNA evidence.
Trump told a rally crowd in Montana this summer that that he’d be willing to pay Warren to submit to a DNA test, just as he’d offered in 2012 to pay up if former President Barack Obama produced his birth certificate.
“I will give you a million dollars to your favorite charity, paid for by Trump, if you take the test and it shows you’re an Indian,” he said. “I have a feeling she will say no.”
On Monday Warren tweeted her charity of choice: The National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center.
Moments later, President Trump denied making such an offer: “I didn’t say that,” Trump told reporters at the White House.
Trump is fond of referring to Warren as “the fake Pocahontas,” a reference to a Powhatan woman associated with the colonial settlement in Jamestown, Virginia. At the White House last November, he interrupted his speech honoring Native American war heroes standing around him to invoke the nickname.
“You were here long before any of us were here,” Trump said as he honored three Navajo code talkers from World War II. He added, without naming Warren: “We have a representative in Congress who they say was here a long time ago. They call her Pocahontas. But you know what, I like you.”
Native American leaders have called Trump’s mockery insensitive and an example of prejudice.
WHAT WARREN SAYS
Warren told the National Congress of American Indians last February that her family’s story is lore, not recorded on any tribal rolls.
“I respect the distinction. I understand that tribal membership is determined by tribes — and only tribes,” she said. “I never used my family tree to get a break or get ahead. I never used it to advance my career.”
Warren says the Native American ancestry comes from her mother, born in Eastern Oklahoma in 1912. Pauline Reed’s family was against her marriage to Donald Herring, so the two eloped in 1932.
“I get it: @realDonaldTrump is afraid of facts. But I’m not,” Warren tweeted on Monday, along with the video and website containing the documents. “A deep, independent investigation shows my background played no role in any job I got.”
IS SHE RUNNING?
Sure seems like it.
Warren, an economic populist and leading voice of the #MeToo movement, said last month in Holyoke, Mass., that she’ll take a “hard look at running for president” after the November elections. In August, she’s posted 10 years of tax returns online.
An attendee at a town hall asked Warren if she planned to run for president.
Warren replied that it’s time “for women to go to Washington to fix our broken government, and that includes a woman at the top.”
“I hope she’s running for president,” President Trump told reporters on Monday, “’cause I think she’d be very easy.”