This week, Senator Elizabeth Warren addressed the running controversy over her alleged Native American background. While she did not deny that she may have Native ancestry, she acknowledged that only tribal members have a say on who is a member of their tribe. In light of this, her family’s stories of being descended from a Cherokee are not enough for her to claim tribal membership. She told those gathered that “I respect that distinction.”

Warren’s speech was a surprise, and the reaction was positive. She received a standing ovation and those present vouched for her sincerity. She also promised that she would advocate for stronger policies that address the issues many Natives on reservations face, from lack of proper healthcare to poverty and lack of economic development, as well as environmental havoc stemming from years of mining and other extractive practices.

Though not all Natives find resolution in Warren’s explanation, others feel Warren’s position of power can bring about changes in policy that will stand to benefit Native Americans.

Harold Frazier is chairman of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. The tribe’s reservation is south of Standing Rock, South Dakota. He explained his thoughts on the controversy saying, “If powerful people are now proud of that part of their lineage, he said, that’s a step in the right direction.”

Warren told the crowd that it was “time to make real investments in Indian Country.”

Journalist Nestor Ramos of the Boston Globe writes, “The truth is that it’s well past time.”

Categories: Native American, Native American Art, Native American Beliefs and Traditions, Native American Culture

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