Is Sen. Warren an ‘honest injun’?

By Lt. Col. James Zumwalt

It is most unfair for one falsely to claim group victimhood to gain access to benefits reserved for that group or special consideration for otherwise being a member. It is plain and simple theft.

Sadly, we experienced this in the aftermath of 9/11 when fraudulent claims were filed against the compensation fund.

We witness it on a broader scale as wannabe heroes fraudulently claim military service, wearing an array of unearned medals or claiming to suffer from PTSD. There is even an outrageous case in which a judge falsely claimed to be the recipient of not one but two Medals of Honor.

Such false military claimants became so common that in 2006, President George W. Bush signed the “Stolen Valor Act,” broadening federal laws about unauthorized wearing, manufacturing, selling, or claiming of any military decorations or medals.

Another false claim of veteran status actually came back to haunt a dead claimant. In 1996, U.S. Ambassador to Switzerland Larry Lawrence died in office. Based on his earlier claims he served in the U.S. Merchant Marines during World War II and survived a torpedo attack, he was buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Records later indicated Lawrence was attending college at the time of his alleged high seas adventure. His remains were disinterred and relocated elsewhere.

Such fraudulent claimants do a great disservice on three levels: 1) Where benefits are limited, those deserving may not receive them as they have been taken by an undeserving recipient; 2) they grant undeserved membership into a group whose status turns on sacrifices or injury directly or indirectly incurred by members; and 3) where all else is equal, it can give the fraudster an advantage in competing for a position which is also sought by one not claiming victimhood.

Clearly, one group victimized by historic U.S. government actions for which redress is now needed is the Native American Indian.

How Indians were treated long ago reverberates today as they continue to live on reservations upon which opportunities available to most other Americans are lacking for them. This is why the government and private sector seek to establish special programs benefitting only those who have suffered such hardship due to their Indian heritage.

A website listing “25 Great Scholarships for Native American Students” explains:

“As one of the most underrepresented groups in colleges nationwide, Native Americans face a unique set of obstacles to overcome in order to gain access to higher learning to earn a college degree. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than one-third of Native Americans live on a reservation and have extremely limited outlooks for advanced education. In addition, Native Americans face an overall poverty rate that is exceedingly higher than the average for the rest of the United States population. … Scholarship opportunities (are) specifically for Native American students … committed to their education and beating the odds.”

Details on how to determine whether one has Native American ancestry are easily found online. While DNA analysis is a starting point, it cannot identify a specific tribe to which one may belong. That requires a traditional genealogical records search to locate and follow lines of non-European ancestry. To claim specific tribe membership, one must comply with a particular tribe’s evidentiary requirements.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren is one of those who jumped onboard the Native American bandwagon, claiming a 1/32nd Cherokee heritage – a claim strongly disputed by a Cherokee genealogist. Refusing a DNA test to remove any doubt, Warren relies on two dubious sources – family lore and her “high cheekbones.” She has asserted she “never asked for and never got any benefit” from her claim. The following suggests otherwise.

Proclaiming her ancestry in 1984, Warren later used it professionally to claim minority status when her name was entered into the University of Texas Law School faculty directory. That may very well have influenced Harvard Law School to offer her a job to join their faculty, where she was described as its “first woman of color.” Harvard became her launching pad for a political career.

While Warren had no qualms about claiming Indian heritage, she certainly stood out as such. Unlike so many impoverished Native Americans, she is worth millions of dollars.

What is most ironic about her ancestral claim, however, is what genealogical research really reveals about her family line and its role in the “human cattle drives” involving Indians over the Trail of Tears. Passage of the 1830 Indian Removal Act mandated forceful displacement of various tribes, including the Cherokees, from their lands, traded for lands west of the Mississippi River, to facilitate the spread of European Americans across the continent. These drives were the 19th century equivalent of World War II’s Bataan Death March as thousands of Indians perished along the way.

Among those “herding” Indians into government-built stockades at the Trail’s point of origin was Warren’s great-great-great grandfather.

Thus, Warren’s fraudulent claim of Indian heritage is doubly outrageous. It is a slap in the face of true Native Americans, particularly Cherokees, as her only family’s link to such heritage involved a role in perpetuating their suffering.

Reminding us of Warren’s fake claim, President Donald Trump repeatedly refers to her as “Pocahontas.” Warren alleges this is a racial slur. Not so, according to real Native Americans, such as the Navajo Code Talkers and even the descendants of Pocahontas. Just like those of us who served in uniform take no offense over Kentucky Fried Chicken using the honorary title of rank for “Colonel” Sanders given him by the state of Kentucky, Warren should take no offense over an honorary title given her by the president.

There is absolutely no reason for Warren to shrug off a DNA test proving her Indian heritage. Her unwillingness to do so will come back to haunt her should she run for president in 2020. If she does run, knowing her truthfulness or lack thereof on this issue is an important indicator of presidential character. She needs to level with us as to whether she really is an “honest injun.”

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