Elizabeth Warren Offers Apology to Native Americans at Iowa Forum

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) publicly apologized to Native Americans on August 19 regarding her claims to tribal heritage. Warren, who is running for the Democratic presidential nomination, offered the apology during a forum on Native American issues in Sioux City, Iowa.

“Like anyone who has been honest with themselves, I know I have made mistakes,” Warren said, according to the Associated Press (AP). “I am sorry for the harm I have caused.”

Warren has faced criticism from both sides of the political aisle over her past claims of tribal ancestry. In 2018, Warren disastrously released a DNA analysis that showed evidence of a tribal ancestor as far back as 10 generations.

The Cherokee Nation and other Native Americans criticized the Massachusetts senator for linking tribal membership to genetics. According to the AP, Warren privately apologized to the Cherokee and expressed her regret for the move prior to her appearance at the presidential forum.

Warren, who received a standing ovation at the forum, told the crowd she has listened and learned a lot from conversations with Native Americans in the last few months.

“I have listened and I have learned a lot, and I am grateful for the many conversations that we’ve had together,” she said, according to The New York Times. “It is a great honor to be able to partner with Indian Country, and that’s what I’ve tried to do as a senator, and that’s what I promise I will do as president of the United States of America.”

The progressive Democrat, who continues to climb in the polls, then answered questions about her proposals regarding Native Americans, the AP reported. On August 16, Warren released a lengthy plan to help Native Americans and protect tribal lands. “As a nation, we are failing in our legal, political, and moral obligations toward tribal governments and indigenous peoples,” Warren wrote in a Medium post detailing her latest policy plan. “That this failure is simply the latest chapter in generations of prior failures is no excuse.”

She added: “We must ensure that America’s sacred trust and treaty obligations are the law of the land — binding legal and moral principles that are not merely slogans, but instead reinforce the solemn nation-to-nation relationships with Tribal Nations. Accomplishing this will require structural change.”

The proposal included promises to revoke permits for the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines and the creation of a national alert system for missing indigenous women. Warren also proposed expanding the ability of tribal governments to prosecute non-Native Americans for crimes committed on tribal land.

Warren promised to form a permanent, cabinet-level White House Council on Native American Affairs. The council was first established by President Barack Obama, but was abandoned under the Trump administration. She also suggested a new White House Budgetary Office of Tribal Affairs, to consult with Native Americans and track federal funding for Native and indigenous programs.

The proposal was released with Representative Deb Haaland (D-N.M.), one of the first Native American women elected to Congress. Haaland introduced Warren during the presidential forum after endorsing her bid for the White House in July.

Haaland told the crowd that those who “ask about Elizabeth’s family instead of issues of vital importance to Indian Country feed the president’s racism.”

Several Native Americans who attended the presidential forum in Sioux City told the AP that they supported Warren for apologizing but felt she does not need to continue doing so.

Snuffy Main, a 64-year-old member of the Gros Ventre Tribe of Montana, said he did not understand why Warren is “constantly apologetic for making a mistake.” Main said he liked Warren’s proposals to improve America’s commitment to Native tribes. “If she can do even a fraction of what she promised, that would be beneficial,” he said.

The two-day presidential forum, which was named in honor of Native American activist Frank LeMere, was hosted by Four Directions and the Native Organizers Alliance. It brought in 7 of Warren’s rivals, including Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and former Housing and Urban Development (HUD) secretary Julían Castro.

Warren has been steadily rising in recent national polls. While former Vice President Joe Biden continues to dominate the top spot among Democratic candidates, Warren has slowly inched past Sanders to secure second place in Real Clear Politics’ (RCP) national polls average. Warren holds a slight lead over Sanders for the second spot in the national race while she is firmly ahead of Sanders in the RCP Iowa polls. She falls to third place behind him in New Hampshire.

About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various venues, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.