Elizabeth Warren’s DNA test insults Native Americans

By Micha Thurston, Ad & Business Manager

Courtesy of Getty Images

The long-running debate over Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s, D-Massachusetts, ethnic heritage has been resolved following DNA test results.

The report, released Oct. 15 by the Boston Globe, states “[Warren] had a Native American in her family tree dating back six to 10 generations.” The test was conducted by Stanford University genetics professor Carlos Bustamante.

These DNA results, however, do not constitute cultural identity.

According to a statement released Oct. 15 by Cherokee Nation Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr., a leader of the tribe Warren’s ancestor belonged to, DNA does not suffice.

“A DNA test is useless to determine tribal citizenship,” he said in the statement. “Using a DNA test to lay claim to any connection to the Cherokee Nation or any tribal nation, even vaguely, is inappropriate and wrong.”

It’s silly to think we would even be debating a senator’s ethnic heritage, but according to an Oct. 15 CNN article, the debate began when Warren ran for Senate in 2012 against former Sen. Scott Brown, R-Massachusetts, who openly questioned her racial heritage. Warren defended her claims by citing stories from her childhood told by her mom and dad, as she told Boston radio station WBUR in 2012.

The backlash against Warren increased after President Donald Trump mockingly referred to her as “Pocahontas” on several occasions. The slurs and mockery are equally, if not more, unacceptable and offensive to the Cherokee Nation as Warren’s questionable claims.

As a biracial woman, I sympathize with Warren’s desire to prove her ethnic heritage because it is frustrating to be told how you can and cannot identify. But I also understand that my cultural belonging and identity can’t depend on an ancestry test like 23andMe.

Unlike Warren, I don’t need a DNA test or stories from my parents to tell me who I am. My blackness is undeniable and unmistakable; it is at the forefront of my entire being. My grandma told me that we are Norwegian, and this was later confirmed when she took a DNA test herself. But despite being told all my life that I was Norwegian, that culture never had any impact on my upbringing, so I cannot and do not claim the culture as my own simply because it shows up in my spit.

Culture, race and identity run so much deeper than skin or blood—especially in a culture as sacred and unique to various Native American tribes. Perhaps Warren can use her DNA results as a jab at Trump, but to claim the traditions of the Cherokee Nation, and to identify with the systemic oppression Native Americans have endured, is not only offensive, but a blatant dismissal of the white privilege Warren has as a blonde-haired, blue-eyed white woman.