Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren (D) is at the center of controversy following her decision to take a DNA test in order to prove claims that she has Native American ancestry. The senator made the decision to take the test after a lifetime of describing her family’s tales of Native American heritage.
During a rally in July, President Donald Trump made a claim that he would donate one million dollars to her charity of choice if Warren proved she was Native American. At the time, he expressed skepticism that she would accept the challenge, but the Senator did in fact take a DNA test. The test, which was only recently released, supported the claims that she has made. Warren asked that the one million dollar donation that Trump promised to pay be sent to the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center.
Throughout her career, Warren has discussed her heritage. She says that her family told her that they had a Native American ancestor. This is something that Warren herself appears to have used during her time as a professor, wherein she would self-identify as a minority in the Association of American Law Schools desk book, a national law school directory.
“I listed myself in the directory in the hopes that it might mean that I would be invited to a luncheon, a group, something that might happen with people who are like I am,” said Warren. “Nothing like that ever happened, that was clearly not the use for it, and so I stopped checking it off.”
During her time as a professor at Harvard University, the university touted her ancestry and claimed that she was the first woman with a minority background to be tenured. In the past, the Senator has claimed that this was done without her permission and that she didn’t even know the university knew about her ancestry, a claim that other university officials lent credibility too.
The Senator took a DNA test that was analyzed by a group of geneticists led by Carlos Bustamante, who is a well-known and respected faculty member of Stanford University. The research was done by comparing strands of the Senator’s DNA to that of 148 other people from a range of places throughout the world. When the analysis was completed, the end result was that five percent of the Senator’s DNA suggested very strongly, with 99 percent confidence, that somewhere in the past six to 10 generations there was a Native American ancestor. This is both fairly recent ancestry, and also in line with what the Senator has said about her ancestry.
The Senator’s decision to take the test and share the results haven’t come without backlash. Native American organizations and tribes such as the Cherokee Nation have reacted with frustration and anger at the idea that DNA alone is enough to qualify someone to claim that they have Native American ancestry.
Another reaction has come from President Trump himself. Trump has denied that he claimed that he’d donate one million dollars to the charity of Senator Warren’s choice, asking people to “Read it again” on Monday, October 15.