Rebecca Nagle, a bona fide Cherokee Nation citizen and a self-described “two spirit (queer) woman,” just wrote a piece for the liberal website Think Progress that is bound to stun Democrats set on defending Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
Warren has been mercilessly lampooned as “Pocahontas” by President Trump for her baseless Native American heritage claims, and yet the media has chosen to focus on Trump’s choice of words instead of the fact that Warren is unfairly portraying herself as someone she’s clearly not in order to get ahead.
But Nagle is having none of it.
After acknowledging the assumption that “as a young Cherokee woman” she would “take Warren’s side,” Nagle noted that merely standing up to Trump, whom she disagrees with also, doesn’t make Warren a hero.
“She was not a hero to me when she failed to foster a haven of support for Native students within Harvard University’s alienating Ivy League culture,” Nagle writes. “She is not a hero for spending years awkwardly avoiding Native leaders. She is not a hero because, despite claiming to be the only Native woman in the U.S. Senate, she has done nothing to advance our rights.”
“She is not from us. She does not represent us. She is not Cherokee.”
Nagle outlined the root of the Warren / Native American controversy and how the then-Harvard Law School professor “categorized herself as ‘Native American’ during a time when the minority status served her career and later dropped the marker after gaining tenure.”
Except, “…as Native people, we are relegated to being invisible, while Warren is not.”
“High cheekbones” aside, Warren’s baseless claims boil down to “racist stereotypes and easily refutable stories about her family,” and Nagle notes that Cherokee genealogists can find zero evidence to support them.
Ironically, despite Warren’s claims of Native American heritage, “she has decidedly avoided talking with Native leaders and, in 2012, refused to meet with a group of Cherokee women at the Democratic National Convention.”
Nagle contrasts Warren with herself, “an enrolled citizen of Cherokee Nation and a member of my home and urban Indian communities.”
“We are living, real, and whole people; not fractions of Indians who used to be real,” Nagle writes. “As one of the statistics — a Cherokee woman and a survivor — Elizabeth Warren does not speak for me.”
The Think Progress writer then drafts an “apology” for Warren, to help her “accept responsibility for misappropriating Native identity for her own economic and political gain.”
I am deeply sorry to the Native American people who have been greatly harmed by my misappropriation of Cherokee identity. I want to especially apologize to the over 350,000 citizens of Cherokee Nation, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and the United Keetoowah Band. In my family, there is an oral history of being Cherokee, however, research on my genealogy going back over 150 years does not reveal a single Native ancestor. Like many Americans who grew up with family members claiming to be Cherokee, I now know that my family’s stories were based on myth rather than fact. I am not enrolled in any of the three Federally recognized Cherokee Tribes, nor am I an active member of any Cherokee or Native American community. Native Nations are not relics of the past, but active, contemporary, and distinct political groups who are still fighting for recognition and sovereignty within the United States. Those of us who claim false Native identity undermine this fight.
I am sorry for the real damage that Native Americans have experienced as the debate about my false identity has revived the worst stereotypes and offensive racist remarks, all while Native people have been silenced. I will do my part as a Senator to push for the United States to fully recognize tribal nations’ inherent sovereignty and uphold our treaty obligations to Native Nations. I will use my national platform to advance the rights of Native Americans and I commit to building real relationships in Indian Country as an ally and supporter.
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