A Dose of Reality

A Dose of Reality: Will Elizabeth Warren’s DNA Analysis Open Anyone’s Eyes?


By Barton Cockey


October 17, 2018


Senator Elizabeth Warren may well be remembered only for her assertion that she is a descendant of Cherokee Indians. The claim rang false for many observers, who have called her “Fauxcahontas” and “Spouting Bull.” Challenged by President Trump, she has had her DNA tested in a private lab, with results that fall short of corroborating her story of being 1/32 Cherokee. According to Dr. Carlos Bustamante, a professor at Stanford University, she had a Native American ancestor “in the range of 6-10 generations ago.” That analysis would put the ratio at 1/64 to 1/1,024. Even this estimate is suspect, as the reference DNA for “Native Americans” is derived from Central and South America. North American tribes have reportedly refused to cooperate with companies interested in the commercial exploitation of their genetic material. And the admixture of European DNA among present-day Hispanic-Indians is non-zero.


The tendency to accuse public figures of lying is a sad feature of our current political climate, and it seems unkind to suggest that the senator did not simply latch onto a memorable scrap of family lore even if none of her kinfolk remember it. Oral history is notoriously unreliable. Careful genealogical research is better. Unfortunately for her, it appears that her great-great-great grandfather Jonathan Crawford was involved in rounding up Cherokees for the horrendous forced trek to Oklahoma known as the “Trail of Tears,” and his wife, the putative squaw, was listed as “white” in the 1860 census according to investigation by Michael Patrick Leahy.


Does Elizabeth Warren bear any responsibility for the deeds of her ancestor Private Crawford? Of course not. Should she be blamed for being happy to believe she was descended from America’s noble savages? If that was her understanding, why shouldn’t she delight in such an interesting family history? No, the problem is that she took up her mythic tribal blanket and wrapped it around the sick fetish of multiculturalism, with the complicity of the administrators at Harvard and University of Pennsylvania.


Yet, in choosing DNA analysis as the means of proving her claim, Senator Warren undercut one of the principal dogmas of diversity: Race is a social construct! It is refreshing when one of our most politically correct public ideologues does something that acknowledges reality, even inadvertently.