Warren: 'Never used' Native American claim to advance career

FILE- In this Dec. 5, 2017, file photo, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., waits to speak during a meeting of the Senate Banking Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington. Warren said Wednesday that President Donald Trump is disrespecting Native Americans by referring to her as "Pocahontas," and she says that while she's not enrolled in any tribe, "I never used my family tree to get a break or ... advance my career." (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

WASHINGTON — Sen. Elizabeth Warren said Wednesday that President Donald Trump is disrespecting Native Americans by referring to her as "Pocahontas," and that while she does not claim membership in any tribe, she has never used her ancestry "to get a break" or advance her career.

In a surprise appearance before the National Congress of American Indians, the Massachusetts Democrat said her mother's family was part Native American and her father's parents "were bitterly opposed to their relationship." Her mother was born in Oklahoma in 1912 and married her father in 1932, Warren said.

"The story they lived will always be a part of me. And no one — not even the president of the United States — will ever take that part of me away," she said.

Warren, 68, is running for re-election to the Senate and is widely considered a possible 2020 presidential contender. She frequently has sparred with Trump, who derisively refers to Warren as "Pocahontas" to mock her claim about being part Native American.

Pocahontas was a native woman who lived in present-day Virginia in the 1600s and agreed to marry an English colonist to help ensure peace and protect her people.

Warren said she understands why Trump and other political opponents "think there's hay to be made here." She added: "The joke, I guess, is supposed to be on me."

In her most expansive public remarks on her ancestry, Warren told the Native American group that she respects the distinction between Native American heritage and membership in a tribe.

"I understand that tribal membership is determined by tribes — and only by tribes," she said.

But contrary to claims by opponents, "I never used my family tree to get a break or get ahead," Warren said. "I never used it to advance my career."

Questions about Warren's ancestry first surfaced during her 2012 Senate run, when she ousted Republican Sen. Scott Brown to claim the seat once held by the late Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy.

During the campaign, law school directories from the Association of American Law Schools from 1986 to 1995 surfaced that put Warren on the association's list of "minority law teachers" when she was teaching at the University of Texas and the University of Pennsylvania. Warren said she listed herself with Native American heritage because she hoped to meet people with similar roots.

Jefferson Keel, president of the tribal congress, said his group was "deeply honored by the courage" Warren showed in addressing a topic that has vexed her for nearly six years.

"We appreciate her candor, humility and honesty and look forward to working with her as a champion for Indian Country," Keel said.

But Mike Reed, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee, said Warren "failed to apologize to the actual Native Americans in the audience and continued to insist that she really is a Native American, despite the long list of evidence that indicates otherwise."

If Warren believed she deserved Native American status when she started checking the minority box in 1986, "why did she stop claiming minority status once she made it to the Ivy League in the 1990s?" Reed asked.

In a 2012 interview with The Associated Press, Warren, then a Harvard Law School professor, said she and her brothers were told of the family's heritage by their parents.

Warren, who was raised in Oklahoma, said her father's parents objected to her parents' marriage because her mother "was part Cherokee and part Delaware."

The family dispute was "something my brothers and I grew up with. We always understood the difference, between our father's family and our mother's family," she told the AP.

Warren repeated much of that family history on Wednesday, although she did not mention any specific tribes in referring to her mother.

Warren told the Native American group that Trump's taunts had led her to a decision: "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."

She said the story of Pocahontas has long "been taken away by powerful people who twisted it to serve their own purposes."

While Pocahontas played a key role in mediating relations between the tribes ruled by her father and early white settlers, she later was abducted, imprisoned and held captive and died at about age 21, Warren said.

Warren called it "deeply offensive" that Trump keeps a portrait of President Andrew Jackson hanging in the Oval Office, "honoring a man who did his best to wipe out Native people."

The type of violence Jackson and his allies perpetrated on Indian tribes "remains part of life today" for Native Americans on and off Indian reservations, Warren said, noting that more than half of Native American women have experienced sexual violence.


Associated Press writer Steve LeBlanc in Boston contributed to this report.

Must Read

Valeant's rosy forecast and promised changes, fire up shares

Aug 9, 2016

Drugmaker Valeant posts big 2Q loss, but execs tout turn-around plan and reassured investors drive up shares

4 months after Japan earthquake, final victim may be found

Aug 10, 2016

Nearly four months later, the final victim of two deadly earthquakes in southern Japan may have been found

Zambia voting for president amid unprecedented violence

Aug 10, 2016

Zambia, former 'model for Africa,' votes for president amid striking political violence

People also read these

If Trump can't get along with GOP, how will he govern?

Aug 9, 2016

Beyond the political fallout from Donald Trump's rocky relationship with party elders lies a fundamental reality: Should he win the presidency, the brash billionaire will have to work closely with the same GOP leaders he vilified on the campaign trail

UN bungles response to Africa's yellow fever outbreak

Aug 5, 2016

An AP investigation finds that 1 million doses of yellow fever vaccines vanished in Angola as the World Health Organization's response lagged for months

Trump ignites new firestorm: Gun backers might stop Clinton

Aug 10, 2016

Donald Trump sets off a fresh political firestorm by suggesting gun rights supporters might find a way to stop Hillary Clinton if she's elected and nominates anti-gun Supreme Court justices

Weather, 20 December
Houston Weather

High: +11° Low: -2°

Humidity: 83%

Wind: NNE - 7 KPH

Canberra Weather

High: +27° Low: +17°

Humidity: 87%

Wind: W - 20 KPH

Roissy-en-France Weather

High: +6° Low: -5°

Humidity: 87%

Wind: ENE - 7 KPH

Florence Weather

High: +9° Low: +6°

Humidity: 97%

Wind: ENE - 17 KPH

Parga Weather

High: +16° Low: +4°

Humidity: 100%

Wind: SE - 25 KPH