Activists Seek to Reignite Debate Over Elizabeth Warren's Ancestry

Image credit: Patrick Whittemore/Boston Herald

Despite Republican attempts to turn Elizabeth Warren's Cherokee heritage - or lack thereof - into a campaign issue, her self-identification with the tribe has not affected her standing in opinion polls.

A recent Boston Globe poll suggested more than 70 percent of voters said the controversy wouldn't affect their vote.

That hasn't stopped a small but committed group of Cherokee women from dogging Warren on the campaign trail, irked that she has called herself Cherokee. How small? Their last protest - at the Massachusetts Democratic convention earlier this month - featured two people.

Spearheaded by Twila Barnes, an amateur genealogist from the Cherokee Nation, four women have spent this week in Boston, Mass., hoping to get a few minutes with Warren.

Barnes is joined by Ali Sacks of the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians, Ellen Goss of the Cherokee Nation and Sky Davis of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians . "We have joined together as a voice for the Cherokee people, not for our respective governments, but for the people," Barnes said Tuesday.

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Barnes said the group's goals are to "bring awareness" and "educate the public." They originally hoped to meet with Warren in order to confront her regarding her Cherokee heritage. Additionally, the foursome arrived in Boston having scheduled a meeting with the campaign office of Warren's Republican challenger and incumbent Sen. Scott Brown. According to Barnes, the women hoped to talk to Brown on the widespread problem of unregistered Cherokees starting their own tribes.

That meeting, however, never took place. "Yesterday during a different interview, I was asked a question about, like, why, if it wasn't politically motivated, why did we schedule a meeting with his campaign office instead of his senator's office? We aren't really political people, and so we didn't even think of that. So we canceled the meeting," Barnes said on Wednesday.

Warren staffers "haven't returned our calls," Barnes said. Julie Edwards, a member of Warren's staff, said that the team had no plans to meet with the Cherokee representatives.

While the women have criticized Warren for self-identifying as Cherokee, they don't themselves have any affiliation with their tribal governments. Representatives from the press offices of each nation stated that none of the women involved are affiliated with their respective nations' governments, and should not be construed as representatives of their respective nations.

"We do not know her, have never had any contact with her, other than she may be a tribal member," a representative from the Keetoowah Band media office said in reference to Sacks. "They are in no way affiliated with the tribal government, and I cannot confirm or deny their citizenship in the tribe," said Lenzy Krehbiel-Burton, deputy executive director of communications for the Cherokee Nation, of Barnes and Goss. A representative from the Eastern Band said she was not able to answer questions about Davis.

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