If Warren seeks to tackle the issue, there are no easy options. Some tribe members want her to apologize to Native Americans for claiming heritage without solid evidence. Tribes across America have spent centuries denouncing whites who claim Indian DNA without a clear basis, claims they find deeply offensive.

Another path includes pursuing stronger outreach to the tribes with whom she claims to share kinship, a strategy that she’s begun to employ. This too is fraught, as some Native American leaders are resentful that she’s done, in their estimation, little to help tribes as a powerful senator.

“She’s not part of the Cherokee community,” said Chad Smith, who was the principal chief of the Oklahoma-based Cherokee Nation from 1999 to 2011. “She hasn’t reached out. She hasn’t come here and participated much.”

“The mark of value in claiming heritage is: Do you use your position to give back?” Smith said. “If it is a claim that is valuable to her, she should be helping Indian country. She might be doing it with the overall agenda. But unless she’s contributing back, it is a somewhat hollow claim.”