May 08, 2012

Warren's Cherokee claim unsubstantiated?

Elizabeth Warren Ancestor Rounded Up Cherokees For Trail of Tears

By Michael Patrick LeahyFor over a quarter of a century, Elizabeth Warren has described herself as a Native American. When recently asked to provide evidence of her ancestry, she pointed to an unsubstantiated claim on an 1894 Oklahoma Territory marriage license application by her great-great grand uncle William J. Crawford that his mother, O.C. Sarah Smith Crawford, Ms. Warren's great-great-great grandmother, was a Cherokee.

After researching her story, it is obvious that her "family lore" is just fiction.

As I pointed out in my article here on Sunday, no evidence supports this claim. O.C. Sarah Smith Crawford had no Cherokee heritage, was listed as "white" in the Census of 1860, and was most likely half Swedish and half English, Scottish, or German, or some combination thereof. (Note, the actual 1894 marriage license makes no claim of Cherokee ancestry.)

But the most stunning discovery about the life of O.C. Sarah Smith Crawford is that her husband, Ms. Warren's great-great-great grandfather, was apparently a member of the Tennessee Militia who rounded up Cherokees from their family homes in the Southeastern United States and herded them into government-built stockades in what was then called Ross’s Landing (now Chattanooga), Tennessee—the point of origin for the horrific Trail of Tears, which began in January, 1837.
Actually, no. As far as we know, Warren has never described herself as Native except in 10 years' worth of professional directories.

I agree the marriage license is a little thin as documentation. I'd call it evidence, not proof.

But having ancestors on both sides of the conflict isn't "stunning" or even surprising. Thirty-one of her 32 ancestors presumably weren't Cherokees. I'd be surprised if those living through the Trail of Tears didn't take sides against the Indians.

Elizabeth Warren brushes off ‘Trail of Tears’ report

By Hillary ChabotElizabeth Warren waved off reports yesterday that an ancestor helped round up Cherokees in the infamous “Trail of Tears,” as well as demands from U.S. Sen. Scott Brown to prove she never claimed her Native American heritage to further her career—dismissing the developments as “politics as usual.”

“I think what this is about is Scott Brown trying to change the subject,” said Warren at a Brighton event last night. “He just wants to find a way to talk about something else, and I think it’s wrong. I think this is why people are turned off on Washington politics.”
For more on the subject, see Is Elizabeth Warren Native? and Elizabeth Warren's Birther Moment.

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