Native Americans Call on Elizabeth Warren to Recant Native Heritage Claims, Say Her Apology Was 'Vague and Inadequate'

Native Americans have released a letter calling for Senator Elizabeth Warren to recant her past claims of native heritage, calling her apology for them "vague and inadequate."

"You have yet to fully address the harm you have caused," the letter states. "While your apologies are a step in the right direction, they have been vague and inadequate. Accountability is not just admitting you made a mistake, but working to correct the harm it caused."

The letter also says a "history of false claims" by the Massachusetts senator "have normalized white people claiming to be Native" and perpetuated misconceptions of what it means to be Native American.

"While the average American thinks of Native Americans as a racial category, we are actually political groups. By publicly equating race and biology with Native identity, your DNA test promoted the exact same logic the Right is currently using to try and destroy Native rights."

The letter was signed by over 200 Native Americans, most of whom are from the Cherokee Nation, the tribe Warren claimed to be a descendant of. It calls out the Democratic presidential candidate for continuing to defend herself by saying she repeated the claims because she heard them growing up. In using that defense, the letter states, Warren "set a harmful example for these white people stealing Native identity and resources with stories very similar" to hers.

The letter cites a Los Angeles Times article that said over $800 million in federal contracts awarded to Native American business owners had gone to white people who also made unsubstantiated heritage claims.

The 200 signees call on Warren to make a public statement that includes the stipulations outlined in the letter. Warren's statement should also make clear that she and her ancestors are white and that the "family story of Cherokee and Delaware ancestry is false and it was wrong for [Warren] to repeat it as an adult," the letter said.

It went on: "We ask that you explain that only tribal affiliation and kinship determine Native identity, and that equating Native identity with race and biology erodes the foundation of Indigenous sovereignty."

Additionally, Warren's statement should "clearly state that Native people are the sole authority on who is—and who is not—Native."

The letter says the resolution of this issue "will impact Native rights for years to come."

Warren issued a 12-page response to the letter in which she stated, "I am not a person of color; I am a white woman, and that is how I identify."

"I am not a tribal citizen. Tribal Nations—and only Tribal Nations—determine tribal citizenship. It's their right as a matter of sovereignty, and they exercise that in the ways they choose to exercise it. I have said very publicly—and I will continue to say—that DNA does not determine tribal citizenship."

Warren thanked the Cherokee Nation and other native groups for writing the letter and included her campaign policies to specifically help native peoples. She concluded her letter by saying she was "grateful" that they were holding her accountable.

"I know this kind of engagement only happens with people you expect more from, and I am grateful to be one of those people. Please continue to expect more from me, and I will continue to dedicate myself to living up to it."

Three of the letter's authors told the Los Angeles Times that Warren's latest response "made an effort" to address their points but noted that Warren "hasn't recanted her family story."

elizabeth warren iowa campaign stop
Elizabeth Warren speaks during a campaign stop in Iowa City, Iowa, on February 10. The Massachusetts senator says she supports reparations for Native Americans. Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images