What’s an American Indian? Warren case stirs query

Topics: From the Wires,

What, exactly, makes someone American Indian? Even Indians themselves don’t agree.

The question arises because Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren’s disputed claim of Native American identity is spotlighting the subjective nature of Indian heritage.

Warren, a Democrat running in Massachusetts against Republican incumbent Sen. Scott Brown, says her “family lore” describes Indian ancestors. Her opponents say she has no proof.

David Eugene Wilkins, a member of the Lumbee tribe and a professor of American Indian studies, says Warren is not Indian because she has no connection to any tribe or Indian community.

But David Treuer (Troy’-er), an Ojibwe writer, says you can have an Indian identity without knowing your actual Indian ancestors. His recent essay in the Washington Post was titled, “Elizabeth Warren says she’s Native American. So she is.”

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