The Boston Globe ran a massive 3,000 word lead article this morning trying to excuse away Elizabeth Warren's claim during her professional career to be minority and a woman of color based on supposed Native American ancestry.
The story, which had the cooperation of the Warren campaign, comes just days before the first debate in Massachusetts' Senate race. Clearly, the Warren campaign is worried after even Native Americans who are Democrats criticized Warren at the DNC in Charlotte, and is attempting to put its story out there through a friendly source.
The article is a masterpiece of distraction, weaving stories from people completely unrelated to Warren as to their own experiences with Native America family lore or growing up as Native American in the 1950's and 1960's with bits and pieces of Warren's story. The end result is an attempt to paint Warren as a victim of circumstance and the times she grew up in, as a means of explaining away the many inconsistencies in her story.
Yet when one digs down into the actual facts in the Globe story, it actually is quite devastating to Warren, proving that contrary to her many recent accounts, Native American ancestry was not central to her life at any time prior to the mid-1980s when she claimed “Minority Law Teacher” status in a national law faculty directory.
Despite all the verbiage, the following facts emerge from the story:
1. Warren’s claim now is focused on a different family line than originally claimed.
When the story broke that Warren might be 1/32 Cherokee, it was based on supposed ancestry on Warren’s maternal grandmother’s side, the so-called Crawford line. That 1/32 claim was completely debunked, and the Globe had to issue a retraction, although Warren being 1/32 Cherokee lives on in pop culture.
The Globe focuses its examination on the maternal grandfather’s lineage, the so-called Reed line, and it is that family line which appears in the story to be the focus of Warren’s campaign.
Warren’s story has switched sides. Now it’s supposedly the Reed line which had the strong Native American connection.
Yet in its 3,000 words, the Globe never notes this switch, although to its credit the Globe did note that Warren’s family can’t keep its own story straight:
Warren said she was informed by others in the family that her mothers mother was a little bit Delaware, and her father was more Cherokee. Told that her brother recalled the opposite, she added, It might have been the other way around. Her grandmother, she added, always talked about PawPaw being a lot more Indian.
2. There is no genealogical proof that Warren has ANY Native American ancestry.
The image and text posted just below the headline to the Globe article are incredibly deceptive. The image purports to be of Warren’s maternal grandfather, and has next to it the text “Harry Reed was part Indian, say descendants.”
The key wording is “says descendants.” Because there actually is no evidence to support the claim, it’s just family lore, yet it is used to start off the story:
Those brothers a team of carpenters named Harry and Everett Reed who plied their trade in the Indian Territory that would become the state of Oklahoma are believed by some family members to have roots in the Delaware tribe.
“Believed to be by some family members”? No other evidence is presented.
It is not until deep down in the story that the Globe notes that the person it quotes in the first sentence of the story has no proof:
Warrens family, including cousin Mapes, have no documentation of Native American affiliation, nor is there evidence that they are listed on any official tribal roll.
Twila Barnes, the Cherokee genealogist whose group has documented Warren’s lack of Native American ancestry and who has been harassed by Warren supporters as a result, already has researched the ancestry of Harry Reed in great detail, and published those findings with extensive documentation weeks ago:,
Ms. Warren claims her mother, Pauline Reed Herring, was Native American. When asked what made her mother’s family Native American, Ms. Warren replied, “One side was Cherokee and the other side was Delaware.”
We have already shown there is nothing to indicate American Indian ancestry through Paulines mother, Hannie Crawford. Now we will show you why there is good reason to believe there is none through Paulines father, Harry Gunn Reed, either. We have shown the historical documents supporting the fact Harry G. Reeds family was white and not Indian, but sometimes that just isnt good enough for people, especially some Elizabeth Warren supporters….
So, on we go, with more evidence to show Elizabeth Warren does not have Cherokee, Delaware, American Indian, Native American, or whatever else you want to call it, ancestry
The Globe also failed to note that Warren’s own adult nephew researched the Reed line, and in 2002 described claims of Native American ancestry as rumor.
The Globe did an incredibly shoddy job on the ancestry, failing to note not only that Warren’s story has changed, but also extensive evidence that there is no Native American ancestry, while building the story around what “descendants say.”
3. Lack of proof becomes proof.
Much of the Globe article is devoted to proving that not all Native Americans can document their ancestry, so lack of proof doesn’t mean much.
I won’t bore you with all the stories from people unrelated to Warren recited in the Globe article. But this is the heart of Warren’s defense on whether she actually has Native American ancestry, that because some real Native Americans can’t prove their ancestry, Warren not being able to prove her ancestry is proof she’s Native American.
Think about that. The complete absence of any documentary evidence that Warren has Native American ancestry becomes the proof for Warren having Native American ancestry.
4. Warren continues to hide evidence.
Warren still has not authorized the release of her employment files, and the Globe notes she will not authorize the release of tribal genealogical records or give details as to most of her supposed “family lore”:
Months after the political flare-up, Warren and some of her family members remain unwilling to provide details on the subject. In a lengthy interview, Warren referred to stories about her roots that she says were frequently told at family gatherings in her native Oklahoma, but declined to share virtually any of them. I knew it was part of our family, Warren said. It was part of what we talked about. . . . It was just part of who we were.….
The Cherokee Nation, like many tribes, will only release the names of those on its rolls to those claiming membership. While a spokeswoman for the Delaware Tribe of Bartlesville, Okla., one of several branches of the tribe, said that their roll includes a member with the name of Reed born around the turn of the century, she would not provide additional information. Warrens campaign declined to request the information from either tribe.
5. Warren grossly exaggerated her family lore.
Here is where the Globe works really hard to obfuscate, but ultimately reveals facts demonstrating what I always have believed about Warren, that there were rumors (her nephew’s word) and some family stories, but that Warren grossly exaggerated those rumors and stories when it suited her professional purposes later in her career.
Here are some excerpts from the story:
Warrens extended family has mixed opinions on the Native American question. The stories shared by Mapes, as well as Warrens brothers and a number of her cousins, echo Warrens assertion. But other cousins, some of whom also do not know Warren, say they know nothing of Native American blood in the family. According to one family biography, on file at the California State University at Fullerton, one of Warrens relatives once shot at an Indian….
The Globe does note that virtually none of her childhood classmates recalls her being Native American:
Forty years later, when the subject of Warrens heritage erupted on the national airwaves, some of her former classmates smirked to hear her say that Native American blood was central to her identity. Few of them, certainly, had ever heard anything of it.
The Globe does quote one classmate, who presumably was identified to the Globe by Warren or her campaign, as follows (emphasis mine):
While Warren did not talk to many classmates about her heritage, she loosened up with her friend Katrina Cochran.
As the two drove in Warrens white MG to the Charcoal Oven drive-in for lunch in their senior year, they would sometimes have a mock debate about who was more Indian.
She talked about her grandmother being a Cherokee, and I talked about how my aunt by marriage was a Choctaw, said Cochran, an Oklahoma psychologist. I was making a totally illogical argument, saying I was just as Indian as she was. It was ridiculous because she had the blood and I did not, but it made us laugh.
When pressed to discuss conversations she may have had with classmates who had similar stories, Warren declined to elaborate. It was a different time, she said.
Note again the highlighted wording, back then Warren was claiming Cherokee lineage on her maternal grandmother’s side, now it’s supposed Delaware ancestry on her maternal grandfather’s side.
Getting back to classmates, the Globe could have noted that one such classmate who had no idea Warren claimed Native American ancestry was her debate partner, who has said he was “joined at the hip” with Warren for three years. Yet we are supposed to believe that because of the times Warren kept her ancestry a secret from everyone, yet it was so fundamental a part of who she was? This strains credulity.
6. Warren’s immediate family backs her up but only in a general way
For the first time the Warren campaign has made Warren’s brothers available and had them issue a statement of support. But look at the actual short statement and the interviews, and it is apparent that there is little there other than a general family lore.
David Herring of Norman, Okla., one of Warrens three brothers, said in an interview that even when he was a child his relatives were reluctant to talk about the familys Native American heritage because it was not popular in my family. Only when he begged his grandparents, said Herring, did they finally explain to him: Your grandfather is part Delaware, a little bitty bit, way back, and your grandmother is part Cherokee. It was not the most popular thing to do in Oklahoma. [Indians] were degraded, looked down on.
Warrens brothers, Don, John, and David Herring, also issued a joint statement supporting their sister. The people attacking Betsy and our family dont know much about either. We grew up listening to our mother and grandmother and other relatives talk about our familys Cherokee and Delaware heritage. Theyve passed away now, but theyd be angry if they were around today listening to all this. …
Warrens brother David, eight years her senior, calls the public controversy over the subject a bunch of baloney. He remembers relatives cautioning him when he played cowboys and Indians as a child. My aunts said, Be careful shooting the Indians because some of them are your relatives. But most shied away from the subject of the familys heritage, Herring added, because it wasnt something you were proud of.
Did any of her brothers claim to be Native American? Did any of them “check the box” based on these vague stories which lack any proof? The Globe doesn’t say.
The family account in the Globe story supports what never really was in doubt, that there were some family stories, but does not support the proposition that such stories justified Warren claiming minority status, as even the Globe admits:
In the absence of documentation, the familys link to any Native American tribe is a matter of narrative inheritance or folklore, as Warren puts it. Even if Warren has some degree of Native American blood, it is unclear if it would meet conventional standards of what constitutes a minority.
(added) In fact, Harvard currently applies the standard two part test to claim to be Native American for employment purposes, proof of actual ancestry and proof of tribal affiliation or community recognition. Warren fails both parts of the test.
7. Warren never embraced her heritage except in a manner designed to help her professionally
Ultimately, Warren’s defense and the Globe story fall apart because of the timing of Warren’s use of her supposed ancestry in the mid-1980s in the law faculty directory (supposedly to meet other Native Americans), and then in reporting to U. Penn and Harvard Law Schools, and her appearance while auditioning for Harvard as a “Woman of Color in Legal Academia” in the Harvard Women’s Law Journal.
The Globe and Warren try to explain this away as a change in societal times, in which it finally became acceptable to disclose Native American ancestry.
Forty years later, when the subject of Warrens heritage erupted on the national airwaves, some of her former classmates smirked to hear her say that Native American blood was central to her identity. Few of them, certainly, had ever heard anything of it. But to Cochran, the timing made sense.
It did not surprise me one bit that Liz was in her adulthood . . . when she began to embrace her heritage, said Cochran. In the South of those days, these issues were just not discussed. We are the buckle of the Bible Belt down here.
That meme, of course, is nonsense. Assuming for the sake of argument there was an issue in the 1950s or 1960s, by the 1970s the American Indian movement was highly visible and affirmative action hiring in academia began to make it advantageous to claim minority status.
More important, there is nothing to suggest that Warren ever “began to embrace her heritage.” She never sought membership in a tribe, affiliated herself with any Native American groups on or off campus, never advocated for Native American causes or helped Native Americans in any way.
The only way that Warren embraced her heritage was in a very sneaky way meant to juice her appeal to prospective employers by putting her in the desirable employment categories of “minority” and “woman of color.” When she reached the top rung of the law professor ladder, a tenured professorship at Harvard Law School, Warren abandoned her tactical “embrace” of her Native American heritage.
When first confronted by the Boston Herald in late April, Warren claimed not to know why Harvard was touting her as a Native American hire. It was only later as others dug up facts as to the law faculty directory and her employment reporting that Warren’s story changed and being Native American became a fundamental part of who she was.
We don’t know if Warren gained an actual advantage from taking family rumors and stories and using them only for professional purposes. We do know that Warren tried to gain an advantage, and it is that attempt which the Globe article obscures.
Warren’s attempt to rig the system by attempting to gain an ethnic advantage she did not deserve is the real story, a story which hopefully will come out at the debates.