By ESTHER J. CEPEDA
The drama over whether Elizabeth Warren could rightfully be considered Native American — and whether she used this claim to gain favor in her academic and professional career — began in earnest in 2012.
The latest chapter features the Democratic senator from Massachusetts on camera, with a backdrop of emotional music, declaring that even though “some people have questioned my heritage and my family history … no one, not even the president of the United States, will ever take it away from me.”
It’s certainly true that we each create our own identities and are entitled to them.
Just don’t count on acceptance into the community whose ranks you claim.
“This story for us has a much longer timeline than I think many Americans understand,” said Kim Tallbear, professor of native studies at the University of Alberta and author of “Native American DNA: Tribal Belonging and the False Promise of Genetic Science.”
Tallbear recently spoke to the public radio show “On the Media” to discuss Warren’s claims of being Cherokee on her great-great-great-grandmother’s side.
“Everything that’s taken from indigenous people, be it actual land and resources, or be it an image that can be marketed and used for a football team, or taking claims to ancestry and making those part of the identity that one is espousing to the world — our understandings of kinship and family and tribe are not governed so strongly by the idea of having distant unnamed ancestry,” Tallbear said. “We have a much stronger sense of what it is to be Native American that is governed by our family relationships, by lived social relations … that matters to us.”