Senator Elizabeth addresses National Congress of American Indians in Washington, D.C. Native News photograph by Levi Rickert
Published February 15, 2018
WASHINGTON – For the first time ever, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D – Massachusetts) addressed the general session of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) 2018 Executive Council Winter Session in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday.
Her speech befor some 500 tribal leaders from across Indian Country was a suprise because she was not on the agenda. However, sources tell Native News Online Warren asked to be added so she could address tribal nations.
Her appearance electrified the tribal leaders who stood when she was introduced and gave her a standing ovation at the conclusion of her remarks.
Warren, who was accused of using her American Indian heritage during her distinguished career in academia, addressed the issue head-on. She explained her American Indian heritage and made her family history clear – that her family members are not on any rolls, and that she is not an enrolled member or citizen of a tribe – but a descendant of a tribal community.
“And I want to make something clear. I respect that distinction,” said Warren. “I understand that tribal membership is determined by tribes — and only by tribes. I never used my family tree to get a break or get ahead. I never used it to advance my career.”
Warren’s claim of American Indian heritage has provided fodder for Republicans, and especially President Donald Trump who disrepectly calls Warren “Pocahontas” on an ongoing basis. The president even took a jibe at Warren during a White House meant to honor Navajo Code Talkers last November.
Warren told NCAI delegates, her parents were real people. She recounted how her father’s family were opposed to him marrying her mother because of her American Indian heritage. So, they eloped and spent 63 years married.
“They’re gone, but the love they shared, the struggles they endured, the family they built, and the
story they lived will always be a part of me,” said Warren. “And no one — not even the president of the United
States — will ever take that part of me away.”
Then, she made a promise.
“I’m here today to make a promise: Every time someone brings up my family’s story, I’m going to use it to lift up the story of your families and your communities,” said Senator Warren.
She went on to discuss stories she will uplift, including stories of missing and murdered Native women, the health care divide, tribal lands and natural resources, historic monuments like Bears Ears, access to capital and credit; and infrastructure and access to rural broadband.
“In addressing NCAI, Senator Warren addressed the world, and we are deeply honored by the courage she showed today,” said NCAI President Jefferson Keel. “We appreciate her candor, humility, and honesty, and look forward to working with her as a champion for Indian Country.”