Indian delegates seek sit-down with Elizabeth Warren
Hillary Chabot and Joe Butterfield
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Elizabeth Warren can’t escape her Cherokee heritage controversy even at this gathering of loyal Democrats, as a contingent of skeptical American Indian delegates — including the great-grandson of Geronimo — are inviting Warren to a meeting tomorrow to explain her ancestry claims.
“I think she owes us that, she owes the Native American community here at least that,” said Stephen Lewis, a member of the Gila River Indian community. “That would go a long way in dispelling that question.”
The Truth Squad paid a visit to a gathering of American Indian delegates to ask their feelings about the Massachusetts Democratic U.S. Senate challenger, and many of them expressed anger that Warren listed herself as an American Indian minority in law school directories without any proof.
“If you are native, there is no doubt, and if one has to research to try and ascertain if they are Native American, I would have great concerns with that and I think naturally I would just wonder if that was a vehicle she would want to use to her benefit,” said Frank LeMere, an American Indian activist of the Nebraska Winnebago Tribe. “If that is the case, shame on her.”
The delegates extended an invitation to Warren to appear at their caucus meeting tomorrow, just before she is slated to give a prime-time address on the convention stage.
“If you’re going to claim that you are American Indian and a descendant of some Native nation then you have to represent,” said Sharon Stewart-Peregoy, a Montana state senator and member of the Crow Nation. “You have to step up and bring those (American Indian) issues forward. That’s what it’s all about.”
Harlyn Geronimo, the great-grandson of the legendary Apache warrior, said he didn’t know the details of Warren’s claims but wanted to make sure she didn’t try to “take advantage” of her Cherokee claims. Warren has offered no proof of her ancestry but says she is relying on “stories” relayed to her by her family.
“I wouldn’t vote for anybody that is being dishonest, and it’s unfair to our people,” he said.
The Warren campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
Geronimo’s wife, Karen, also an Apache from New Mexico, said she and other Indians carry an ID card as proof of their heritage, and believes every person claiming American Indian heritage should do the same.
Asked whether she would ever vote for someone who misrepresented themselves as American Indian, she was adamant.
“No, not at all,” Karen Geronimo said.
LeMere also said he would “absolutely not” back a candidate who lied about being American Indian.
“If she is not an enrolled member, then she shouldn’t represent that she is Native American. Our issues are too important.”