Senator Elizabeth Warren Apologizes to Cherokee Nation for Insulting DNA Test, but Her Apology Won’t Cause the Controversy to Go Away

FILE – In this Nov. 29, 2018, file photo, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., answers questions at the American University Washington College of Law in Washington, after delivering a speech on her foreign policy vision for the country. Sen. Elizabeth Warren is taking the first major step toward running for president. The Massachusetts Democrat said Monday she’s launching an exploratory committee for the 2020 campaign. She’s the most prominent Democrat yet to make such a move. Warren is one of the most recognizable figures in the Democratic Party and a favorite target of President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

Senator Elizabeth Warren has tried to put a nagging controversy behind her by apologizing privately to a leader of the Cherokee Nation for her decision to take a DNA test to prove her Native American ancestry last year, a move that had angered some tribal leaders and ignited a significant political backlash.

But mixed reactions among prominent Native American critics Friday suggested that Ms. Warren might still have further to go.

Some Native American leaders gave her credit for the apology and political figures, for the most part, downplayed the issue.

But others remain unsatisfied.

“This still isn’t transparent,” said Twila Barnes, a Cherokee genealogist who has been critical of Ms. Warren’s claims of native ancestry since it became national news in 2012. “She needs to go public and say she fully takes responsibility and that the DNA test was ridiculous. There is still something about this that feels off.”

The private apology comes as Ms. Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, is set to formally launch her presidential run next week after recent visits to early nominating states like Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. It also comes after repeated calls for her to apologize from tribal leaders, political operatives, and her own advisers, who said her October decision to take the DNA test gave undue credence to the controversial claim that race could be determined by blood — and politically, played into President Trump’s hands.

Mr. Trump has repeatedly mocked Ms. Warren for her decades-old claim of Native American ancestry, using slurs such as “Pocahontas” to dismiss her and recently saying she fell for his “Pocahontas trap.” However, when Ms. Warren hit back at Mr. Trump and released a DNA test to prove her ancestry, she angered members of the Native American community and left-leaning Democrats who believe cultural kinship and tribal sovereignty determines Native citizenship, not blood.

On Thursday, Ms. Warren called Bill John Baker, principal chief of the Cherokee Nation, to apologize for the DNA test, said Julie Hubbard, a spokeswoman for the tribe. She called it a “brief and private” conversation.

Ms. Warren’s campaign did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

“I understand that she apologized for causing confusion on tribal sovereignty and tribal citizenship and the harm that has resulted,” Ms. Hubbard said. “The chief and secretary of state appreciate that she has reaffirmed that she is not a Cherokee Nation citizen or a citizen of any tribal nation.”

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SOURCE: The New York Times, Astead W. Herndon