A few days back I commented on Elizabeth Warren’s claim that she’s Native American. Since then we’ve had the piece at Breitbart which shows that a) her claimed Native American ancestor wasn’t and b) another ancestor helped round up the Cherokees for their sad journey to Oklahoma. This has thrown her campaign into a tizzy.
Where I teach is only five minutes from Ross’ Landing, the “jumping-off” place for the Trail of Tears. So the subject of the Cherokees–and the Scots-Irish, probably the trunk of her family tree as it turns out–is of intense interest. There are some observations that need to be made:
- It’s entirely possible that the woman in her background Warren claims was Cherokee actually came from the tribe. In the wake of the Removal, the Cherokee were understandably reticent about claiming their heritage, which is why it’s frequently tricky to verify such a claim. The only thing that would settle the issue would be genetic testing, fairly common these days. However, given the risk of failure, I doubt that the Warren campaign will risk it.
- It’s also possible that someone involved in the Removal would turn around and marry a Cherokee, or have a relative to do so. “Running off with an Indian” was and is a common thing to do in these parts, it’s just more expensive now with the high cost of weddings.
- Having Cherokee ancestors means that you have possible slave holders in your background, as some of the Cherokee owned slaves. It also means that you are the descendant of a people group whose removal was done in part because their civilisation and education level was starting to make the surrounding population look bad.
- Having Scots-Irish ancestors means that you’re the scion of the people group whose characteristics the bi-coastal elites hate the most. It’s a howl to think that such a person would stand for the Senate from Massachusetts, let alone a Democrat.
The whole saga of the Cherokee is complex and defies many of the politically correct stereotypes we have constructed around race and ethnicity. Were this controversy in Tennessee or Oklahoma, it probably wouldn’t be the big deal it is. But then again she probably wouldn’t have much of a chance running as a Democrat in either state.
The irony of the whole thing is that Warren, who built her reputation as a consumer advocate and is running as something of a radical, isn’t in the right party to make a serious difference there, either. In spite of their willingness to throw people in jail for all kinds of financial and other peccadilloes, the current administration/régime is giving the heavy hitters in the financial system–campaign contributors and future employers all–a wide berth. That “limousine liberal” approach to “reform” is a major reason why we still have a competitive political system in Massachusetts and everywhere else.