The video footage of Senator Brown’s staff engaged in ‘war whooping’ and ‘tomahawk chopping’ is not only offensive and demeaning to Native Americans it is also demoralizing to citizens across the country. It’s concerning that experienced staff members of a United States Senator would act this way; Senator Brown should take corrective action immediately. These actions belittle the democratic process and are emblematic of an irresponsible public discourse on race and Native identity by misinformed individuals and the media.
Elizabeth Warren also bears responsibility for allowing the public discourse about Native identity to become misrepresented. She has every right to be proud of her family, however her campaign failed to educate a non-Native media and the public unfamiliar with federal tribal enrollment rules or about historic federal policies that make proving Native ancestry very difficult for some people. Finally, Warren’s campaign did not respond to requests for interviews from Native media organizations. All of these actions could have gone a long way to reducing tension and increasing awareness.
MARTIN: Professor Miles, I’m going to give you the final word here. You know, it’s interesting, we live in a time when it seems that we’ve talked a lot more about identity and what it means than many people ever thought we would, in part because we have a president who is biracial, and even now we’re still talking about this. Do you envision that there will be more conversations about this going forward, or do you think that this is just one of those kind of weird happenstances of the fact that this is a person who is participating in a hotly contested political contest?
MILES: I don’t think this is the end. I think that given that we’re having more and more interracial marriages and people who are claiming mixed-race identities who also might want to claim what I’ll call it a fixed-race identity simultaneously, we’ll be approaching this question again and again I think in different circumstances that we can’t even imagine right now.
MARTIN: Is there anything else you wanted to say about this that I didn’t have to wit to ask you?
MILES: Well, I would just like to add, I think part of the crucial issue here is that claiming an identity – at least in my view – has two parts to it. One can claim but I think one also has to be claimed in order for that identity to be fully rounded and I think that’s part of Elizabeth Warren’s trouble, that she claimed this native identity but she has not been claimed nor does she seem to have really reached out to try to be claimed by Cherokee people and by other native academics.
Here (briefs in red below are those that mention Elizabeth Warren):
- Brief for Abigail Thernstrom, Stephan Thernstrom, Althea K. Nagai, and Russell Nieli in Support of Petitioner
- Brief for the American Center for Law and Justice in Support of Petitioner
- Brief for the American Civil Rights Union in Support of Petitioner
- Brief for the Asian American Legal Foundation and the Judicial Education Project in Support of Petitioner
- Brief for California Association of Scholars, Connecticut Association of Scholars, Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence, Reason Foundation, Individual Rights Foundation, and American Civil Rights Foundation in Support of Petitioner
- Brief for the CATO Institute in Support of Petitioner
- Brief for the Center for Individual Rights in Support of Petitioner
- Brief for Current and Fiormer Civil Rights Officials in Support of Petitioner
- Brief for Gail Heriot, Peter Kirsanow & Todd Gaziano, Members of the United States Commission on Civil Rights, in Support of Petitioner
- Brief for the Honorable Allen B. West, Member of Congress and Lieutenant Colonel, United States Army (Ret.), in Support of Petitioner
- Brief for Judicial Watch, Inc., and Allied Educational Foundation in Support of Petitioner
- Brief for the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, the 80-20 National Asian American Educational Foundation, et al, in Support of Petitioner
- Brief for Mountain States Legal Foundation in Support of Petitioner
- Brief for the Pacific Legal Foundation, Center for Equal Opportunity, the American Civil Rights Institute, the National Association of Scholars, and Project 21 in Support of Petitioner
- Brief for Scholars of Econmics and Statistics in Support of Petitioner
- Brief for Southeastern Legal Foundation in Support of Petitioner
- Brief for the Texas Association of Scholars in Support of the Petitioner
- Brief for Ricnard Sander and Stuart Taylor Jr., in Support of Neither Party
Here (h/t to R.M.).
For the Cherokee Nation, Warren is “Indian enough;” she has the same blood quantum as Cherokee Nation Chief Bill John Baker. For non-Natives, this may be surprising. They expect to see “high cheekbones,” as Warren described her grandfather as having, or tan skin. They want to know of pow wows, dusty reservations, sweat lodges, peyote and cheap cigarettes. When outsiders look at these ostensibly white people as members of Native America, they don’t see minorities. As a result, Warren feels she must satisfy these new birthers and justify her existence.
Looked at from the inside, however, the Warren controversy is all new. When the Brown campaign accused Elizabeth Warren of touting herself as American Indian to advance her career, this was news to Native law professors. We have a good eye for welcoming faculty to the community and identifying promising scholars. We know where people teach, what they have published and we honor them when they die. Harvard Law School named its first Native American tenured professor? Really? In our small indigenous faculty town, we would have heard about it already.