Elizabeth Warren camp: Her great-great-great-grandmother was Cherokee

posted at 5:02 pm on May 1, 2012 by Allahpundit

Yesterday I thought this story was small potatoes but revealing as an insight into how far Warren might go to gild her resume with a diversity credential. After this, though, I’m honestly interested in hearing her address it. What’s the threshold of “minority” status in her mind? Are we back to the “one drop” rule or is 1/32 juuuuuuust enough for a shot of authenticity whereas 1/64 is a bridge too far? Actually, maybe those standards aren’t so different: When you’re talking about a great-great-great-grandparent, one drop is about all that’s left.

Ace notes that the premise behind diversity hiring is that a minority employee brings a perspective that whites simply can’t. Another premise, a la affirmative action, is that a minority employee deserves special consideration because he/she had to cope with cultural disadvantages that whites haven’t. Is Liz Warren claiming that she’s in either of those boats? Can’t wait for this press conference.

Desperately scrambling to validate Democrat Elizabeth Warren’s Native American heritage amid questions about whether she used her minority status to further her career, the Harvard Law professor’s campaign last night finally came up with what they claim is a Cherokee connection — her great-great-great-grandmother.

“She would be 1⁄32nd of Elizabeth Warren’s total ancestry,” noted genealogist Christopher Child said, referring to the candidate’s great-great-great-grandmother, O.C. Sarah Smith, who is listed on an Oklahoma marriage certificate as Cherokee. Smith is an ancestor on Warren’s mother’s side, Child said…

Meanwhile, Warren’s camp issued statements from five faculty members at the four universities where she’s taught, including Harvard Law School and University of Pennsylvania, to knock down any suggestion she used her Native American background to get hired.

“To suggest that she needed some special advantage to be hired here or anywhere is just silly. She was hired for her great abilities as a teacher and a scholar. Her family tree had nothing to do with it,” wrote Jay Westbrook, chairman of the business law school at the University of Texas at Austin, who hired Warren.

The same genealogist also discovered that one of Warren’s great-grandfathers, although white, did live for a time in Cherokee territory, which makes him … kind of minority, I guess? Good enough for her to claim 1.5/32 status?

Three lingering questions here. One, as noted yesterday: Why did Warren stop describing herself as minority circa 1995? What changed? Two: Why did she start describing herself as a minority circa 1986? If she didn’t have hard documentation until literally yesterday that she was part Native American, what evidence was she relying on to claim that distinction in the first place? “Grandma told me I might be part Cherokee” doesn’t cut it, I hope, when we’re talking about criteria that qualify as a competitive advantage in one’s profession. You need proof, or at least you should. Three, via Ann Althouse: Why does Warren’s campaign seem so impressed by the fact that her previous employers are willing to say her ancestry played no role in hiring her? Of course they’re going to say that. If they don’t, they know it’ll be interpreted by the public as an admission that she was graded on a curve in the hiring process. Either embrace diversity hiring as a glorious fair-minded policy or don’t, but don’t try to have it both ways.


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Pardon me, but can somebody tell me why I should give a d@mn that Elizablech’s great-great-great-grandmother ran around half naked and slept in a teepee?

MelonCollie on May 2, 2012 at 9:51 AM

What a coincidence, I’m one-thirty-second Cherokee also!

Mini-14 on May 2, 2012 at 8:54 AM

There is no proof that Elizabeth Warren is 1/32nd Cherokee.

Even if Neoma O.C. (Smith) Crawford, was of Cherokee descent, she was enumerated as WHITE in the 1860 Bledsoe County,TN., census. If Neoma O.C. (Smith) Crawford was of Cherokee descent, she probably wasn’t FULL blood Cherokee-the only way Elizabeth Warren could claim she is 1/32nd Cherokee. There is no way to determine Elizabeth Warren’s Cherokee Blood Quantum, without knowing if Neoma O.C.Smith was a FULL blood Cherokee. Her son William J Crawford, identifying her as Cherokee on his marriage certificate. That isn’t a determination of his mother’s Blood Quantum. Neoma O.C. (Smith) Crawford, could have been 1/8th, 1/4th, Cherokee etc…if Neoma O.C. (Smith) Crawford had been at least 1/2 Cherokee, then her children would have been 1/4th, and made it onto the DAWES ROLLS in 1898. That’s going with the assumption that the B.I.A. accepted 1/4th Cherokee Blood for the DAWES rolls.

Elizabeth Warren’s campaign, needs to consult better genealogist – before making claims they can’t back up with documentation.

Maybe they will have better luck with Elizabeth Warren’s Delaware Indian ancestor.

Dr Evil on May 2, 2012 at 9:51 AM

Ken James on May 2, 2012 at 12:01 AM

Ken, The Cherokee Indian Removal was 1838, and Neoma (Smith) Crawford was still living in Bledsoe Co.,TN., in 1860 -22 years after the fact, and enumerated WHITE that means at least she could pass for WHITE a FULL BLOOD CHEROKEE would not be able to pass for WHITE. Neoma O.C. (Smith) Crawford, was born in North Carolina 1794. There were Cherokee living in North Carolina during the time period she was born.


Rutherford was fighting the Cherokee during the Revolutionary War.

The Cherokees of western North Carolina in the mid-eighteenth century were part of a mighty nation, with a population of 36,000 controlling more than 140,000 square miles across the Southeast. That population was reduced to 7,000 by the 1770s as the native people felt the full impact of European settlers and ceded their lands through a series of treaties. In 1776, at the outset of the American Revolution, the two cultures clashed.

There is a Rutherford Trace and a Rutherford Co.,N.C. the Rutherfords are an old Revier family from the English border country.

I used to think that when the Scot Irish settled the frontier that the Indians in the area, had taught them guerrilla warfare, turns out they already knew they brought that style of fighting with them from the old country, and that’s why they could force the Cherokee into a treaty in 1776.

Dr Evil on May 2, 2012 at 10:12 AM

When will Ward Churchill vouch for her?

Roy Rogers on May 2, 2012 at 11:01 AM

BTW, I’m directly related to Robert the Bruce of “Braveheart” fame. In most places in Scotland, that’ll get me beat up.

BobMbx on May 1, 2012 at 6:02 PM

I have Scottish ancestry from the Campbell Clan – which I’ve been told would get me the same result in most parts of Scotland – as they were the traitors who sided with England.

dentarthurdent on May 2, 2012 at 11:37 AM

AP, methinks the key question of the three you say still linger, is this one:

. . .
Why did Warren stop describing herself as minority circa 1995? What changed?
. . . .

The fact is that at some point, she suddenly chose to erect a barrier of silence between herself and her remote connection to what she had previously and quite proudly touted as her Cherokee ancestry.

And, until genealogist Christopher Child went back and actually traced that specific remote connection, Warren was perfectly to talk the issue aside — she even went to the extent of accusing her opponent of a form of “sexism” for asking questions about it.

That curious reaction on her part made me think of a few lines from Robert Frost’s Mending Wall

“. . .
Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That wants it down.” . . . .

But Warren is not asking that. She’s the one who is mad at the modern elves for trying to push the stones aside. Warren built that wall in 1995 for some reason, perhaps because she learned something . . . and now she does not want to address the issue, nor does she want anyone else doing so.

“Move on! Nothing to see here!” sez she.

Well, that makes me very curious.

Trochilus on May 2, 2012 at 12:12 PM

From the pic out front, she looks like she could be 1/32 Indianish, or at least, one of the middle segments of a 32-segmnent totem pole.

curved space on May 2, 2012 at 2:06 PM

Here is a photo of a Cherokee woman from the year 1888 would she be enumerated as WHITE on a census?

Dr Evil on May 2, 2012 at 2:27 PM

Michael Scott: I’m also part Native American Indian.
Oscar: What part Native American?
Michael Scott: Two-fifteenths.
Oscar: That fraction doesn’t make any sense.
Michael Scott: Well you know its kind of hard for me to talk about… there’s suffering.

Akzed on May 2, 2012 at 11:59 PM

Comment pages: 1 2 3