Many wonder why we Cherokees are so insistent on Elizabeth Warren coming clean about her false claims of Cherokee ancestry. This is not a political issue to us. We don’t care if Elizabeth Warren is a Democrat, Republican, or an Independent. We do care, though, if she goes around claiming to be Cherokee and has tried to benefit from that claim. Some people might not realize there are only three federally recognized Cherokee tribes in the United States, but there are more than 200 groups who fraudulently claim to be Cherokee tribes. While the federally recognized tribes have very specific criteria their members must meet in order to be enrolled or registered, there is no consistent criterion for membership into the fraudulent groups. Many members of these fraudulent groups base their claim of Cherokee ancestry on the same thing Ms. Warren bases hers on…family lore.
Though some might
argue Ms. Warren is only one individual and therefore her claim cannot
possibly cause harm to the Cherokee people, we would remind you that
each of the fraudulent Cherokee groups are made up of individuals.
Alone, none of these people would be harmful, but together, they are. In
2010, one fraudulent Cherokee group planned a march on Washington DC in
an attempt to have the federal recognition of the three legitimate
Cherokee tribes removed because those three tribes would not allow fakes
to enroll or register with them. Like Warren, these individuals believe
that family lore is all that should be required to claim Cherokee
ancestry. 1987, a fraudulent Cherokee group in Ohio stood over the
graves of the repatriated remains of Indians, while pretending to be Indians
themselves. Like Warren and her contributions to the Pow Wow Chow cookbook, those fake Indians bastardized our traditions by doing things
that were not representative of true Cherokee culture. From 2002-2005, a
fraudulent Cherokee group in Arkansas, along with several school
districts, was involved in defrauding the US government out of monies
intended for real Indian students. Like Warren in her “checking the box”
to further her career, these people did the exact same thing, “checked
the box”, in order to try to benefit from it.
researched Ms. Warren’s ancestry in the line she claims to be Cherokee through, as well as researched the collateral lines connected to that
family. There is absolutely no indication of her having anything other
than Caucasian ancestors. Though Ms. Warren’s ancestors did move into
the areas that later became Oklahoma, they arrived at the same time many
other non-Indian families arrived – when the land was going to be
opened up and they thought they could get free or cheap land from the
Indians. Ms. Warren’s ancestors were not Cherokees and neither is she.
We, as Cherokees, cannot allow Ms. Warren to continue on with her false
claims. If we allow someone as high profile as her to get away with it,
then everyone else will expect a free pass as well.
authentic Cherokee tribes are made up of descendants of those listed on
either the Dawes or Baker Rolls. Those rolls include the names of
citizens who stayed with their nations; helped clear and farm their
nations' land; helped build their nations' businesses and schools;
participated in their nations' governments; and defended their nations
in times of war and unrest. Through their loyalty to their nations,
those Cherokee citizens paid the price for their descendants to have the
right to call themselves Cherokee today. No one else has that right;
not the individual walking down the street, not the members of the
fraudulent tribes and certainly not a person who is running for the
United States Congress. It is time for Ms. Warren to come clean and tell
the truth. Until she does, we will not be silenced.