By Dr. Nicholas Waddy
[Dr. Nicholas L. Waddy is an Associate Professor of History at SUNY Alfred and blogs at: www.waddyisright.com. He appears weekly on the Newsmaker Show on WLEA 1480.]
Every conservative knows that Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, in addition to being a sanctimonious stealth-socialist and the bane of Mike Bloomberg’s existence, is a nominal Native American. That’s a polite way of saying that, for years, she falsely claimed not only to have Native American ancestry but to be an “American Indian.” She made those phony claims, moreover, at times and in circumstances when they could potentially bring her personal advantage: when she was looking for work as a high-priced corporate legal consultant, for example, or when she was looking to advance her career as an Ivy League professor.
Needless to say, if a Republican engaged in this kind of conduct, he or she would be accused of “cultural appropriation,” at best, and criminal fraud, at worst. But for Liz, lying about her heritage is just another day at the office, seemingly.
As reported by Fox News, this week over 200 Native Americans issued a letter to Sen. Warren stating that her actions have “perpetuated a dangerous misunderstanding of tribal sovereignty” and created “the most public debate about our identity in a generation.”
The truth, though, is that, while many Americans, including President Trump, are laughing at “Pocahontas,” and many actual Native Americans are harshly criticizing her, others are taking a cue from her special brand of deceitful self-promotion.
For instance, political authorities and the courts have weighed in on specious claims by individuals that they belong to minority groups. After all, if such claims were to gain recognition, affirmative action would cease to have any practical meaning or effect.
Hiring isn’t the only way that fraudulent claims of minority group status impact federal, state, and local government. If a business can claim to be minority- or women-owned, it often can qualify for special benefits or greater access to government contracts — just like Elizabeth Warren, charlatan extraordinaire, gained an advantage over other lawyers and professors by falsely claiming to be an Indian.
While there are ways that federal lawmakers can reform this process, in the interim the absolute worst thing we could do is to make it easier for swindlers like Elizabeth Warren to get away with their mendacity and fraud. Baseless claims of Native American ancestry, for example, ought to be quickly exposed, and the perpetrators of these falsehoods should be prosecuted, wherever and whenever appropriate.
Unfortunately, however, Sen. Warren’s bad example has helped to normalize this atrocious behavior. All across this country, there are now groups making false or highly dubious claims of Native American ancestry and heritage, often in order to obtain access to lucrative government contracts.
A Los Angeles Times investigation found that at least $800 million in federal contracts have been awarded to state-recognized “tribes,” which the federal government cannot verify are, in fact, Native American.
In their letter to Sen. Warren issued this week, the 200 Native Americans stated, “Rather than using evidence of Native ancestry, these fake tribes rely solely on family stories and commercial DNA tests.” In other words, these charlatans are following the Warren playbook to a tee. With the standard for “Indianness” set this low, the potential for gaming the system is vast.
That’s why it’s so distressing that a new bill before Congress, the Lumbee Recognition Act, would lower the bar for federal recognition of Native American tribes even further.
The Lumbees, a state-recognized “tribe” in North Carolina and the focus of the proposed bill, have claimed, at various times, to be related to the Croatans, Cherokees, Siouans, and Cheraws, but what they really are is an ill-defined group that the federal government has declined to recognize for over a century. The Director of the Office of Tribal Services even once testified to a “major deficiency” in their claims: “the Lumbee have not documented their descent from a historic tribe.”
Fast forward to the early 21st century, however, and federal funds are flowing more freely than ever. The Lumbees want “in” on this largesse. And if the federal government grants their wish for federal recognition, there’s no telling which of the other state-recognized pseudo-tribes will come next.
In a sense, we should thank Elizabeth Warren for opening the eyes of the American people to an alarming trend: duplicitous people are attempting to take advantage of preferences and services offered to minority groups by falsely claiming membership therein. One is tempted to call this “the ugly side of identity politics,” but, since I have yet to find an appealing side to this odious by-product of leftism, I will simply say: enough is enough!
Liz Warren and the Lumbees should cool their jets, therefore. The last thing this country needs is to expand the circle of group preferences — especially for people who don’t belong to protected groups in the first place.