Eastern Band of Cherokee Chief: Sen. Warren Does Not Claim Tribal Citizenry; Only Tribal Ancestry

Published October 18, 2018

CHEROKEE, N.C. — The leader of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Principal Chief Richard Sneed,  has weighed in on Senator Elizabeth Warren’s DNA test results that indicate she has American Indian ancestry.

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) produced results of a DNA test in an attempt to dispel the errorneous notion she was lying about her claim her family has American Indian ancestry.

Senator Warren has been mocked by members of the Republican Party since she ran for the U.S. Senate. In recent years, President Donald Trump mocks by calling her “Pocahontas” in his stump speeches he holds to energize his base.

In a statement sent Thursday morning to Native News Online, Chief Sneed writes:


“The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is a sovereign tribal nation with the inherent authority to determine our own citizenship. Senator Elizabeth Warren does not claim to be a citizen of any tribal nation, and she is not a citizen of the Eastern Band. Like many other Americans, she has a family story of Cherokee and Delaware ancestry and evidence of Native ancestry. Some people who have family stories or evidence of Native ancestry have sought to appropriate Cherokee culture, claim a preference in hiring, claim that their art is “Indian art,” or advance their careers based on a family story or evidence of Native ancestry. We strongly condemn such actions as harmful to our Tribal government and Cherokee people.

But Senator Warren has not tried to appropriate Cherokee or Delaware culture. She has not used her family story or evidence of Native ancestry to gain employment or other advantage. She has not tried to claim a treaty or trust obligation, or seek the protection of the Indian Child Welfare Act. On the contrary, she demonstrates respect for tribal sovereignty by acknowledging that tribes determine citizenship and respecting the difference between citizenship and ancestry.

Senator Elizabeth addresses National Congress of American Indians in Washington, D.C.

Senator Warren also has sponsored legislation to help prevent suicides in Indian country (“Native American Suicide Prevention Act,” S. 3460), identify missing and murdered Native women (“Savanna’s Act,” S. 1942), and help tribes reacquire lands that were taken as a result of harmful federal policies (“Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Reservation Reaffirmation Act,” S. 2628). Senator Warren also has worked with the Eastern Band to help us reacquire important Cherokee historical sites in Tennessee (“Eastern Band of Cherokee Historic Lands Reacquisition Act,” H.R. 146).

Senator Warren has demonstrated her respect for tribal sovereignty and is an ally of the Eastern Band. As such, we support her and other allies – regardless of party – who promote tribal sovereignty, tribal self-determination, and protection of Cherokee women.”

Chief Sneed’s statement differs significantly from the statement issued by the Cherokee Nation, based in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. On Monday, after Sen. Warren’s campaign released DNA results that show she had American Indian ancestry in her family, Cherokee Nation Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin, Jr. blasted Senator Warren.

“It makes a mockery out of DNA tests and its legitimate uses while also dishonoring legitimate tribal governments and their citizens, whose ancestors are well documented and whose heritage is prove. Senator Warren is undermining tribal interests with her continued claims of tribal heritage,” Hoskin said in his statement.

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