Elizabeth Warren and Native Communities

Before I talk about Senator Warren, I have some things to say:

I’m not Native; I’ve never been a part of any Native community and I had no exposure to any, growing up. Because of that, I refuse to identify as Native or to wear Native regalia. I do have a Native ancestor possibly as recently as 3 or 4 generations ago, but that doesn’t mean anything because of that lack of cultural exposure.

I am, however, a passionate believer in restorative justice. Ignoring policy proposals, this means that someone who is wronged is entitled to restitution. The history of the Americas since Cristoforo Colombo made landfall 494 years (to the day) before I was born has been one of exploitation, theft, murder, rape, and torture of Native inhabitants on a stupendous scale, and to this day the United States has failed to make restitution for any of it. Even today, Native rights are trampled for money or politics. Native territories are held only at the sufferance of the United States government rather than because the Natives are true, independent nation-states…which, too, is on sufferance of the government. The American Civil War has only cemented this point, as the official policy of the government, as a consequence of that war, is that, once annexed, territories are indelibly part of the Union.

This cultural imperialism extends even to taking Native children away from their parents to be fostered or adopted by white people, forcing them to only learn and speak English, and refusing to recognize Native cultural practices or beliefs. This practice occurs even today, and has received some protection in the recent removal by the Supreme Court of a legal requirement for Native children’s status as Natives to be considered in court proceedings. During all of this, white people have an inglorious history of using any Native ancestry they have to continue to disrespect and diminish Natives, including supporting the concept of ‘blood quantum’, a racial theory that holds that you must have some amount of Nativeness in your genes to be considered ‘Native’. The amount of Nativeness required to hold an opinion is indeterminable, however, because for white people it doesn’t matter as long as you have ‘some’.

Now, for the part involving Elizabeth Warren:

She’s not Native. She has never been part of a Native community, even when she’d listed herself as a racial minority for 9 years in order to, she’s claimed, meet people with similar heritage. She’s worn Native regalia. She has recently sought out and published a DNA test which shows that she has some ancestry, in order to refute Trump’s complaints that she’s a fake Native. In so doing, she has actually affirmed Trump’s complaints, damaged her credibility as a politician, and enabled racists to continue to claim that their some-fragment-of-Nativeness entitles them to justify the continued use of racist terms and iconography (such as the names of several sports teams). It has also exposed a fair amount of hypocrisy in so-called leftist circles, since of course any amount of Nativeness means you’re allowed to claim a Native identity. /s

Nativeness, in the eyes of the only peoples whose opinions on the matter are actually relevant, is a matter of cultural identity, not just ancestry. If you’re not part of any Native communities, have made no efforts to be, and aren’t interested in doing so, you’re not entitled to claim that identity. I don’t. Elizabeth Warren shouldn’t, either.