It has long been fashionable for Americans to claim descent from Rebecca Rolfe (née Pocahontas) the heroical daughter of Chief Powhatan of Virginia. Woodrow Wilson’s wife was one, the actor, Glenn Strange, another. Then people started claiming any family connection whatsoever to Mrs Rolfe’s descendants, as the Bushes now do. Soon the great contagion spread to the point where everyone in the State of Virginia was descended from Mrs Rolfe, and then all the smart-sets from all the other states joined the rush for Native American blood of their own. Porn actress, Stormy Daniels, is the most recent celebrity to throw her hat into the Me-Too Cherokee zeitgeist movement, claiming Native American ancestry in her new book, Full Disclosure – and we all know about Elizabeth Warren!
Poor Senator Warren, what has she done? For one thing – she has just poured gallons of fuel onto President Trump’s big tease. He calls her ‘Pocahontas’ on account of her claimed pedigree. ‘I know who I am,’ she says, having listed herself in a string of editions of the Association of American Law Schools Directory as an ethnic ‘minority’. But until now she only ‘knew who she was’ because her mother had told her that the Herrings (her father’s clan) were racially opposed to the Reeds (her mother’s clan) because of their ‘Red Indian’ blood. So Mr Herring and Miss Reed had to elope. As any law professor will tell you, Mrs Warren’s mother’s yarn does not provide sufficient evidence to justify the bestowal of ethnic minority status on any one of her lusty, rich white children, however earnestly each and every one of them may wish to join the Oklahoma chapter of the Descendants of Chief Powhatan Association. So now, to show that she really is of Native American ‘minority’ status Mrs Warren has published some scientific evidence. Her DNA, according to the geneticist from Stanford University who studied it, ‘strongly supports the existence of an unadmixed Native American ancestor in [her] pedigree, likely in the range of 6–10 generations ago.’
This may help to get Mrs Warren into the Massachusetts Cherokee smart set, but does it entitle her to call herself an ethnic minority? The evidence shows only that she is between 1/64th and 1/1024th Native American. Her mother was born in 1912. If we take the average human generation to last 25 years, then the test results allow her to claim a Native American ancestor born sometime between 1687 and 1787, which is not at all the same thing as being a ‘minority’. Ms Warren’s insistences have greatly irritated the Cherokee Nation which issued a statement on Monday deploring her attempts to use ‘a DNA test to lay claim to any connection to the Cherokee Nation or any tribal nation, even vaguely’, characterising it as ‘inappropriate and wrong’.
In Nazi Germany, racial discrimination laws required citizens wishing to preserve their freedoms and entitlements to show their Deutschblütigkeitserklarungen (‘German Blood Certificates’), issued only to those who could prove the Aryan purity of all four of their grandparents. A scramble for evidence ensued with 52,000 case files arriving at the Reich Office for Genealogical Research in Berlin, each crammed with photographs, pedigrees, affidavits, convoluted explanations of illegitimacy and mistaken identity, all sent by citizens desperate to overturn official verdicts.
The US hasn’t moved in this deplorable direction yet, but it is a worrying development when a prominent law professor, now a senator, finds herself compelled to publish scientific evidence of atomic drops of Cherokee descent in order to declare herself a ‘minority’. Why did she do it? She says it had absolutely nothing to do with ‘positive discrimination’, that Harvard Law School, where she was hired as a professor, would have taken her on anyway, and that it only boasted in its literature that ‘Elizabeth Warren is Native American’ to boost its own credentials as a diversity employer after she had been given the job.
No, she says, she did it because she ‘identifies’ as a Native American. This reminds me of the case of Rachel Dolezal, the white woman who tanned her skin and Afro-styled her hair, pretending to have a black father, while employed in some senior role at the office of the NAACP. She looked a bit of a fool when her ruse was discovered, but recouped a little dignity by valiantly insisting that she ‘identified’ as black despite her pedigree.
Mrs Warren, having emphatically proved that she has no realistic right, by virtue of culture, language, tribe or blood, to label herself a minority Native American, now needs, like Ms Dolezal, to push the claim that she ‘identifies’ as Native American. Men nowadays can identify as women, or vice versa, without even changing their names their voices, or their hair styles or their clothes. Just say you ‘identify’ as any minority and the modern world will honour and protect you.
So Mrs Warren mustn’t panic; no need to prove that she ‘identifies’ as a Native American by dressing in feathers, learning the Green Corn dance or moving into one of those depressing reserves into which her white ancestors pushed all the tribes many years ago. But if she is serious about becoming the first Native American president, she may have to prove her self-identification to be sincere. She could change her name to Pocahontas (meaning ‘playful woman’). That would certainly take the sting out of Trump’s teasing and show the world that she has a sense of humour. If Pocahontas is too bitter a pill to swallow how about ‘Little White Beaver’ or something like that? If she stands for president in 2020 as ‘Little White Beaver’ she might take the White House and some might even believe her to be a Native American.