Sen. Warren’s DNA means nothing to #ICWA #NativeTruth #WeAreStillHere

When I heard the drum at this powwow in Wisconsin, when I was 12, the sky opened up and my heart fell in. I was adopted out to strangers but I would find my family, no matter what. (My memoir is now retired. I will be rewriting soon.)


What? Back so soon with breaking news?

Yep.  First, I want to thank my friend and blogger KC for asking me to think about and share my thoughts on what it means to have Indigenous ancestry and the recent headlines about Elizabeth Warren.  Next, I defend Sen. Warren’s right to claim her ancestry.  It’s hers! Heck, many Americans do have some American Indian ancestry, too. But what you do with it is what truly matters.

We are all mixed, one way or the other.  American, so heavily colonized, is very populated with mixed people.  We have (hi)storians to blame for not explaining much about this stark truth and reality.

For me personally I was not raised in a tribal community setting, though I had many Native people around me when I was growing up.  Being adopted out, I struggled until my 30s with identity and isolation, but no longer. I met my birth father and did a paternity DNA test with him when I was 38. The history he shared with me, that was what I needed, at that time. But words and blood tests DO NOT make me who I am or the direction of my life’s work.  My Oglala Lakota relatives made sure of that. They were in my life years prior to my finding my father who is mixed Shawnee-Cherokee-Delaware-Euro).

What is required of us:

Once you attend ceremony, once you pray in your language, once you show humility to elders, and once you work for them, and when you learn it’s not “me” but “we” – it is then you are made a relative and accepted as family.  Then you are in tribal community (which is American Indian tradition on Turtle Island). It may take many years, because it should.

As the following story by says, “Half a century ago, the Standing Rock Dakota scholar Vine Deloria Jr. wrote, “Whites claiming Indian blood tend to reinforce mythical beliefs about Indians.”

Falsely claiming Native American identity is a white American tradition, with a deeply racist past.  – Nick Estes

Warren is not living her life as a member of any tribal community, yet like so many, she seems to romanticize the idea of her blood being Indian.  She was raised with her family in Oklahoma, with her history, but she was not enrolled with the Cherokee Nation, who determines their citizenship based on Dawes Rolls, not DNA.  If the Cherokee tribe wishes to change that, and enroll her, it’s completely up to them. (She’ll have years of unlearning and good history lessons ahead.)

To my knowledge, what Warren did with her “ancestry” all these years, was she helped herself.  To my knowledge, she did not assist any tribal nation or community, and in fact, she has not even helped the tribes struggling right here in Massachusetts!  What we are fighting for in this century, like Standing Rock, federal recognition, sovereignty, treaty rights, water rights, protecting Bear’s Ears, ending destruction by mining, pipelines, poverty, all of that – where is she?

This is a new hashtag campaign: #NativeTruth  #WeAreStillHere

If Elizabeth was in her community, she’d know this: Blood quantum is an invention of the governments to widdle us down to “not enough Indian.” (Wiping us out on paper. Gone, erased.)

I actually know many lost Native adoptees who use the DNA test to get their family name, and slowly worked their way back to their tribal families. Some are back on the rez, while others join their urban Indian communities. (I do not recommend or trust the DNA testings or the data they collect and sell. Those TV ads are false and misleading. Very few Indians will submit to giving DNA though some scientists took it without their consent.)

When is a DNA test useful? My adoptee friend Rhonda did a DNA test with an uncle (her birth father’s brother) to determine if she was a family member, and she was – then she was enrolled in her tribal nation. DNA can connect you with a living tribal member, if you were adopted out, or fostered. That is very very helpful.

So, Sen. Warren, it’s not the amount of blood.  DNA doesn’t make you Indian. If you belong to a community (urban or reservation), that makes you a member of that tribal community.

BIG READ:  How Elizabeth Warren’s DNA test hurt our struggle (and took away the news coverage of what matters): READ

Intercept podcast: the last two segments are so good – please do listen!

If you do have Indigenous blood, if it is loud, it won’t leave you alone.  If this speaks to you, then find and join an urban or reservation community and work for them and work with them, and think a new way: “we” not me.

And ask them what you can do and please do what they ask respectfully.

Mitakuye Oyasin. We are all related!


A new address for my blog: American Indian Adoptees

THIS REALLY MATTERS: Native perspective: Sherry Treppa: Why #ICWA is critical to the health of native children and tribal communities


  1. I didn’t see this reported here, so don’t know much about the story..
    Since the advent of easy (and popular) DNA testing, I know many people in England who have gone ahead with it. The result is almost always the same, ‘Mostly Viking’. And Norman of course. So, no surprises. The Vikings invaded almost half of Britain. and stayed. Then the Normans invaded in 1066, and never left.
    America is a nation of immigrants from all over, and there is bound to have been a mix with the Native population that was there before. But as you say, just claiming the heritage based on DNA strands is meaningless. If you want that heritage, you have to live it, embrace it, be part of it.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Well Tubularsock has to admit that Senator Warren’s DNA doesn’t mean anything to the
    #TubeIsAll movement either!

    Granted, the #TubeIsAll movement has only one member which saves on position papers and text charges.

    A consensus is often delayed depending on how many “hits” it takes on the pezz-pipe to bring about clarity. But clarity does come and all is ONE.

    Tubularsock still can’t figure out who REALLY cares if Warren is a Native American or just a plain old white cracker woman. Does it matter to the universe?

    Tubularsock found your explanation why DNA isn’t worth the blood it’s written on and that tribal community is the fundamental bedrock of Native Americanism.

    It appears, LT when you were busy attempting to find your family Tubularsock was busy running as far away as possible from his.

    Tubularsock’s extended family was huge and damn they were everywhere ….. claustrophobic to say the least!

    Originally they floated in on those little tiny boats about five years after the Pilgrims
    and Tubularsock has been running ever since.

    Great post.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Elizabeth Warren is shameless and her credibility should be nonexistent after this latest ploy of hers. When the UN sent S. James Anaya to look into the plight of the Indigenous Population, those in congress did not even receive him to at least listen to the many serious and horrific social ills that plague the Indigenous Population and yet, Elizabeth Warren was a member of congress at that time. That is when she should have declared herself and her intentions to help ‘her people’ if she wants to claim to belong to a tribe of Native peoples. Words mean nothing. Action is required. Warren’s bogus claims are just that, bogus.

    Thank you for posting this!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. A wonderful post with so much important said clearly…

    As someone with a similar-sized miniscule droplet that Senator Warren was proud to proclaim, I can say that what is also important is not letting those long-ago relatives’ right to be acknowledged (by ALL of us) be lost in the battle over defining Indianness… These were real people who faced real consequences for their decision to marry out, disparaged by both sides in the day and they do not deserve to be pilloried again and buried deeply as collateral damage in political tugs of war…

    There should be a better response between finally acknowledging and valuing those ghostly ancestors, and facing the responsibility we therefore have to those who are (by albeit leaky DNA) oh-so-distant DISTANT relatives and deserving of our respect. Maybe by such peculiar dance steps we will as a nation find reason to treat Native people as people, as rightful Americans, finally hearing their words because some vague kinship shows up in a pie chart (not as a princess, not as a Band-Aid to assuage the guilt, not as a ticket to any benefit…but as overdue equals).

    At least, that would be my hope, and the reason as a white person I take extreme offense at the calling of Senator Warren “Pocahantas”…

    Liked by 2 people

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