Warren Apologizes for ‘Harm’ Caused to Native Americans as She Removes Video Championing DNA Test From Website

August 19, 2019 Updated: August 19, 2019

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) told a crowd of Native Americans that she regretted the “harm” she’s caused them as her campaign quietly removed from her website the video published last year championing the results of a DNA test taken to try to prove she had Native American ancestry.

Warren, considered a 2020 frontrunner along with former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), shared the video in 2018 after President Donald Trump teased her about her ancestry claims.

Warren, 77, issued a public apology on Aug. 19, telling a crowd at a forum on Native American issues in Massachusetts: “Like anyone who has been honest with themselves, I know I have made mistakes. I am sorry for the harm I have caused.”

After drawing a standing ovation, Warren said “I have listened and I have learned a lot” from conversations with Native Americans in recent months, describing herself as “grateful” for the dialogue.

Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) speaks at the Frank LaMere Native American Presidential Forum in Sioux City, Iowa on Aug. 19, 2019. (Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

Warren fielded questions about her proposals, which include a legislative change for a Supreme Court ruling that impedes tribal governments’ ability to prosecute crimes committed on tribal lands by those who don’t belong to a tribe.

Warren was not asked about her previous claims and did not directly address the DNA test or her saying she was part Native American at various times.

Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.), one of two Native American women elected to Congress in 2018, said Warren’s history doesn’t matter.

Those who “ask about Elizabeth’s family instead of issues of vital importance to Indian Country,” Haaland told the forum audience, “feed the president’s racism.”

The video championing Warren’s DNA results, meanwhile, was removed from YouTube and her website by Warren’s team, prompting ridicule from GOP communications director Michael Ahrens.

“Remember that awful DNA test video that backfired on Elizabeth Warren? Her team scrubbed it from her website,” Ahrens wrote.

“Guess she *still* hasn’t gotten her story straight.”

Background

Warren, 77, was held forth as a minority while she taught in college, ticked a box on a 1986 registration card for “American Indian,” listed herself as a minority while teaching law, and even submitted recipes to a “Pow Wow Chow” cookbook featuring submissions from “the five civilized tribes.”

She repeatedly said she was told by family members that there were Native Americans in her family tree and, goaded by Trump, took a DNA test to try to prove the claims.

The test showed she had as little as 1/1024th Native American heritage, which would be less than most people descended from Europeans.

Warren posted a front page from the Boston Globe reporting on the test on Oct. 15, 2018, writing: “By the way, President Donald Trump: Remember saying on 7/5 that you’d give $1M to a charity of my choice if my DNA showed Native American ancestry? I remember—and here’s the verdict. Please send the check to the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center.”

In January, a voter scolded Warren, telling her at an Iowa stop: “Senator Warren … Why did you undergo the DNA testing and give Donald Trump more fodder to be a bully?”

Warren did not apologize but said, “I am not a person of color,” she said. “I am not a citizen of a tribe. Tribal citizenship is very different from ancestry. Tribes and only tribes determine tribal citizenship and I respect that difference.

“I grew up in Oklahoma and like a lot of folks in Oklahoma, we heard the family stories of our ancestry,” she added.

Warren in February apologized privately to the Cherokee Nation for taking the test. Cherokee Nation Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. had lambasted Warren after she took the test: “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.”

Later in February, the registration card from 1986 was unearthed, showing Warren identifying herself as an American Indian. “I can’t go back,” Warren told the Washington Post, which found the record. “But I am sorry for furthering confusion on tribal sovereignty and tribal citizenship and harm that resulted.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Follow Zachary on Twitter: @zackstieber
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