A prominent Native American group says Massachusetts Senate hopeful Elizabeth Warren had “better be able to defend” her past claims of being an American Indian minority.
The Democratic candidate is facing questions about her heritage following the revelation on Friday that she described herself as a Native American minority in professional law school directories during the 1980s and ’90s.
“Once you put that down, you better be able to defend it,” Ray Ramirez of the Native American Rights Fund told The Daily Caller on Monday.
Warren, who no longer publicly refers to herself as Native American, has disputed that she claimed American Indian minority status then to give herself a professional advantage.
Asked for evidence of her ancestry to back up the candidate’s past statements, a Warren spokeswoman told TheDC on Monday that the campaign is “working on digging up some sort of evidence to appease” inquirers.
But the campaign hasn’t been able to immediately provide any documentation. The Boston Herald reported Friday that the Warren campaign said the “tales of Warren’s Cherokee and Delaware tribe ancestors have been passed down through family lore.”
Ramirez said anyone who claims in writing to be a Native American should have some sort of supporting documentation. “If you’re a member of a federally recognized tribe, then that means you would have a tribal enrollment number,” he said. (RELATED: Warren campaign says it’s digging up evidence of Native American heritage to satisfy the press)
“If you just heard it from family members,” Ramirez added, “and really have no documentation, I guess it’s best not to ever put that down.”
According to the website of the Native American Rights Fund, “There exists no universally accepted rule for establishing a person’s identity as an Indian” but as “a general principle an Indian is a person who is of some degree Indian blood and is recognized as an Indian by a tribe/village and/or the United States.”
Warren is challenging Republican U.S. Sen. Scott Brown for the Massachusetts Senate seat once held by the late Ted Kennedy.
UPDATE: Warren’s campaign now claims that the Democrat’s great-great-great grandmother was a Cherokee, the Boston Herald reports. According to a genealogist contacted by the paper, that would count as “1/32nd of Elizabeth Warren’s total ancestry.”