Long before the Pilgrims came ashore in the United States, there were Native Americans who roamed and ruled the lands of the country. Starting Tuesday, residents across the U.S. will celebrate the rich and diverse culture of the 3.2 million Native Americans living in the country while recognizing all of the historical sacrifices they've made in the country during National Native American Heritage Month. The month-long holiday is a time to pay homage to the many contributions Native American people have provided since settlers first arrived stateside on the Mayflower in 1620 and recognize the many lives and tribes that were tragically lost during U.S. advancement. The observance also serves as an opportunity to educate Americans about the various Native American tribes that have graced U.S. land while raising awareness about the many challenges Native Americans have faced. Although National Native American Heritage Month only came about within the last 26 years, people have been fighting for national recognition for the culture's historical legacy since the 1900s.
Elizabeth Warren's announcement that she took a DNA test to prove she has a Native American ancestor likely inspired countless people to pursue genetic testing to investigate their own family lore. Yet there's a reason why the Democratic senator's declaration was met with harsh criticism, including from the Cherokee Nation's secretary of state Chuck Hoskin Jr., who said Warren was "undermining tribal interests with her continued claims of tribal heritage." Indeed, there are sensitive, appropriate ways to talk about potentially having Native American ancestors. The Massachusetts lawmaker actually got it right when she made the critical distinction that an ancestral link is not the equivalent of belonging to a Native American community or culture, nor should it entitle people far removed from an ancestor to seek or claim tribal status. SEE ALSO: 9 books to read if you're mad as hell at the patriarchy If someone is compelled to explore their Native American family ties, they need to understand what DNA tests can tell them, be clear about what's driving their quest, and consider becoming an ally of and advocate for Native American tribes and communities.
Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren took the rare step Monday of releasing her DNA test results examining her possible Native American ancestry, tries to eliminate critics' line of attack against her. Sen. Elizabeth Warren's heavily promoted DNA test showing she likely has some Native American ancestry ended up handing more fodder to Republican critics, who pointed out the test results indicate she could actually have less Native American heritage than the average European American. Warren, D-Mass., took the rare step Monday of sharing DNA test results examining her long-challenged Native American bloodline. According to the analysis, as first reported by The Boston Globe, "the vast majority" of Warren's family tree is European and there is "strong evidence" she has Native American ancestry "in the range of 6-10 generations ago." As reported by the Globe, this means she could be between 1/64 and 1/1,024 Native American (though the newspaper initially published an erroneous figure and had to correct it).
In 2012, Democrat Heidi Heitkamp won a razor-tight race in North Dakota for US Senate. Her victory was an upset in a state that regularly elects Republicans by wide margins. In the months and years that followed, North Dakota Republicans passed a wave of new voting restrictions--aimed, Democrats believe, at removing Heitkamp from office by suppressing turnout among Native American voters. Heitkamp's campaign had prioritized outreach to the state's Native Americans. Around 46,000 Native Americans live in the state, and most of them support Democrats.