Elizabeth Warren’s Native Claim

Elizabeth Warren recently released the results of her DNA test, and they indicate that she may have Native American ancestry. Assuming that these results are accurate, analyzing Senator Warren’s claims to indigenous heritage is complicated at best. There is little doubt that many white Americans whose ancestors have lived on the American continent for more than four hundred years have some biological claim to indigeneity, and recognizing such heritage is not at all problematic. However, such a simple biological connection does not imbue the subject knowledge of contemporary aboriginal cultures, languages, ways of life, kinship, understanding of the land, or sense of nationhood, and it certainly does not give them authority to speak on behalf of contemporary tribal members. I do not know if Senator Warren has ever used her claim to speak from an indigenous perspective, but if she has it would be problematic.

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