World_news Warren takes on DNA test fallout with sweeping tribal plan – POLITICO


Elizabeth Warren’s plan addresses a wide range of issues, including past treaties, criminal jurisdiction, the Dakota Access pipeline, violence against Indigenous women, and many more. | John Locher/AP Photo

Sen. Elizabeth Warren has rolled out many detailed plans on the presidential campaign trail but on Friday she released her longest, most comprehensive one. The topic: Native Americans and tribal rights.

The proposal, released ahead of a presidential forum on the topic in Iowa next Monday, comes as Warren has risen in the polls and President Donald Trump has stepped up his attacks on the Massachusetts senator and her past claims of Native American heritage.

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“The story of America’s mistreatment of American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians is a long and painful one, rooted in centuries of discrimination, neglect, greed, and violence,” Warren wrote in a Medium post. “Washington owes Native communities a fighting chance to build stronger communities and a brighter future.”

At over 9,000 words, the plan is more than double the length of any other proposal she’s introduced during her presidential campaign. That includes her ambitious plans to break up some of the biggest tech companies in the world, forgive over $600 billion in student loan debt, and revamp the federal Government’s rural policy.

Warren also announced she was partnering with Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.), who endorsed Warren last month, on a legislative proposal that would confront unmet needs in Indian Country. Haaland is one of the first two Native women elected to Congress last year. There will be a comment period to allow tribal leaders and citizens to help shape the final legislation.

Warren and her team’s intense focus on the issue is, in part, an attempt to address the political fallout from her decision last year to release the results of a DNA test in an attempt to prove that her past claims of Native American ancestry were merited.

The rollout prompted mocking at the time from President Donald Trump — who had been derisively calling her ‘Pocahontas’ before the test. But the more potentially damaging reaction came from the left and some Native American leaders who criticized her for seeming to appropriate a racial identity through a DNA test in order to settle a political controversy.

“Senator Warren is undermining tribal interests with her continued claims of tribal heritage,” Cherokee Nation Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. said in a statement at the time. In the winter of 2018, ahead of her presidential run, Warren reached out and apologized to leaders with the Cherokee Nation. Days after she officially announced her candidacy in February, Warren also made a surprise stop at the National Indian women Honor Luncheon where she introduced the chairwoman of the Wampanoag Tribe of Massachusetts, Cheryl Andrews-Maltais.

Many political strategists predicted that Warren had doomed her presidential ambitions but she has managed to climb back to become a leading candidate in 2020. Some strategists still wonder if she merely rebounded from where she was going to be before the DNA test or if she has actually has taken the fire out of the controversy.

Trump, who has noticed the upturn in Warren’s fortunes, turned his attention back to her on Thursday evening during a New Hampshire rally where he promised more attacks on the subject.

“Like, Elizabeth Warren — I did the Pocahontas thing,” Trump said. “I hit her really hard and it looked like she was down and out but that was too long ago, I should’ve waited. But don’t worry, we will revive it.”

The issue does not come up on the trail often from voters or reporters. In dozens of interviews, concerns about Warren’s “electability” usually revolve around her being too far to the left or whether a woman candidate can defeat Donald Trump in a country that’s never elected a woman president.

The criticism over the handling of the DNA test was just the latest iteration of the controversy surrounding Warren’s past claims of Native American ancestry. It emerged during Warren’s first Senate run in 2012 when Republicans suggested she used it to get hired by prestigious universities. In 2018, Warren decided to give the Boston Globe access to her university personnel files, a step she had previously resisted. The paper determined that the people in charge of hiring considered her a white woman and that her claims of Native American ancestry were not a factor.

Warren’s exhaustive plan makes no mention of her fraught history on the issue but it does address seemingly every other topic including past treaties, criminal jurisdiction, the Dakota Access pipeline, banking access, roads, Native American contractors, housing, the Indian Health Service, the Bureau of Indian Education, violence against Indigenous women, and many more.

The Warren team highlighted that she is the first presidential candidate to call for an “Oliphant fix,” a reference to the 1978 Supreme Court decision that said non-Natives on tribal land aren’t automatically subject to tribal government criminal jurisdiction.

“Congress is currently attempting to expand the domestic violence exception to Oliphant as part of the latest reauthorization of VAWA [Violence Against women Act],” she wrote. “I wholeheartedly support that effort. But I believe that respecting Tribal sovereignty and improving public safety in Indian Country demands that we must go much further.”

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