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Cherokees Head to MA to Confront Warren

The Boston Herald reports on the looming showdown between angry Cherokee activists and Elizabeth Warren (h/t Legal Insurrection):

Four outraged Cherokee activists who say Elizabeth Warren’s campaign has ignored their emails and phone calls will trek to Boston this week in hopes they can force a meeting with the Democratic Senate candidate over her “offensive” Native American heritage claims.

“It’s almost becoming extremely offensive to us,” said Twila Barnes, a Cherokee genealogist who has researched Warren’s family tree. “We’re trying to get in contact and explain why her behavior hurts us and is offensive, and she totally ignores that. Like we don’t exist.”

Late last night, a Warren campaign official told the Herald that staffers will “connect” and “offer to have staff meet with them.”

Warren isn’t doing herself any favors by playing aloof and refusing to meet with them, though she might feel she has no other choice. These are actual tribe members with experience researching genealogy. How can she look them in the eye and claim to have a family ancestry that is not backed up by the facts?

You might be wondering whether the Cherokee activists in this showdown are politically motivated, as this seems like too much of a gift to Sen. Brown’s campaign to be a coincidence. But it actually looks like the woman leading the group, amateur genealogist Twila Barnes, has been an active critic of false Cherokee ancestry claims for years. Her blog, “Thoughts From Polly’s Granddaughter,” has focused on the issue of “wannabe” Cherokees since 2009. One post from December 2010 explains the fake Cherokee phenomenon, and it sounds remarkably familiar if you’ve been following the Elizabeth Warren controversy:

These are the people who refuse to accept evidence that flies in the face of their family story. You can show them documentation from where their “Cherokee ancestor” arrived on the boat from England, yet they still insist this ancestor was Cherokee. You can show them that their ancestors were always listed as white in the records, but they insist the records were wrong, citing they were “whitewashed” or their full blood ancestor “passed for white”. …

Hopefully you are getting the point. A wannabe is someone who just won’t give up the family story, no matter how absurd. They claim to be Cherokee no matter what and no one will ever be able to convince them otherwise because they so desperately “wannabe” Cherokee.

Please don’t be a wannabe. Adhere to the Standards for Sound Genealogical Practices and only claim the things you can verify with supporting evidence.

That’s good advice for anyone, particularly wannabe senators.



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