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Cherokee Nation slams Elizabeth Warren: ‘She dishonors legitimate tribal governments and their citizens’

Elizabeth Warren‘s claims of Native American ancestry are in the news again, thanks to a DNA test she recently released this Monday morning, showing she has distant Native ancestry.

Upon hearing the news, President Trump was reminded by journalists that he once promised to donate $1 million to charity of Warren could prove her indigenous heritage.

“Who cares?” Trump said, adding, “I didn’t say that. You better read it again.”

But as CNN and many other outlets have pointed out, Trump did make the promise.

At a rally in July, Trump said: “And we will say, ‘I will give you a million dollars, paid for by Trump, to your favorite charity if you take the test and it shows you’re an Indian … we’ll see what she does. I have a feeling she will say no but we will hold it for the debates.”

But later on Monday, Trump walked back the promise, saying that he’d only owe the money if he can “test her personally.”

Either way, many in the media and the Twittersphere saw the move as a victory for Warren, putting Trump in a corner where he ended up clearly welching on a bet. But some indigenous people have a different take on the matter entirely.

On Monday afternoon, the Cherokee Nation (of which Warren claims to be related) released a statement saying that said DNA tests are useless, adding that people using DNA to connect themselves to Cherokee ancestry is inappropriate.

“A DNA test is useless to determine tribal citizenship. Current DNA tests do not even distinguish whether a person’s ancestors were indigenous to North or South America. Sovereign tribal nations set their own legal requirements for citizenship, and while DNA tests can be used to determine lineage, such as paternity to an individual, it is not evidence for tribal affiliation. 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 makes a mockery out of DNA tests and its legitimate uses while also dishonoring legitimate tribal governments and their citizens, who ancestors are well documented and whose heritage is prove. Senator Warren is undermining tribal interests with her continued claims of tribal heritage.”

– Cherokee Nation Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin, Jr.

Other indigenous voices spoke about their displeasure with Warren’s test as well. In a statement also issued this Monday, Kim TallBear of the native studies faculty at the University of Alberta released a statement saying Warren’s test is “yet another strike — even if unintended — against tribal sovereignty.”

“This shows that she focuses on and actually privileges DNA company definitions in this debate, which are ultimately settler-colonial definitions of who is indigenous,” the statement said. “As scholars of race have shown, it is one of the privileges of whiteness to define and control everyone else’s identity.”

“Tribal governments establish regulations that do not use genetic ancestry tests, but other forms of biological and political relationships to define our citizenries,” TallBear added.

“Whether Elizabeth Warren or Donald Trump or 23andMe’s Carlos Bustamante know it or not, they are making settler-colonial claims to our cultural and biological patrimony yet again,” she continued.

Warren’s DNA analysis, conducted by Stanford University professor and 23andMe adviser Carlos Bustamante, showed she was between 1/1024 and 1/64 Native American.

Featured image via Ninian Reed (Flickr)

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