Two Democratic candidates are each poised to become the first Native American woman elected to Congress, according to the media consensus, which has prompted the question: What about Sen. Elizabeth Warren?
Democrat Sharice Davids, a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation, won her House primary race Tuesday in Kansas, prompting the Kansas City Star and others to report that she would be “the first Native American woman elected to Congress” if she prevails in November.
The same has been said of Deb Haaland, a member of the Pueblo of Laguna, who captured in June the Democratic nomination for the New Mexico congressional seat being vacated by Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who’s running for governor.
Not mentioned in the post-primary news coverage was the senior senator from Massachusetts, an omission not lost on social media, where references to her dubious claims of Cherokee ancestry are flying thick and fast.
The Democrat Warren asserted minority status as a professor at Harvard Law School even though she’s not an enrolled member of any tribe, an issue that has dogged her since the 2012 Senate race.
More recently, President Trump has revived the debate by dubbing her “Pocahontas,” while Independent Massachusetts Senate candidate Shiva Ayyadurai has challenged her reelection bid by calling her a “fake Indian.”
Ms. Warren swung back earlier this year by blasting the “Pocahontas” nickname as a “racial slur” while ignoring requests to take a DNA test and redoubling her involvement in Native American issues.
With two tribal members running for House seats this year, however, the frequent references to the potential for the “first Native American congresswoman” have assured that the Warren ancestry issue won’t fade any time soon, at least not on social media.
Last week at Netroots Nation, Ms. Haaland declared, “If elected, I’ll be the first Native American woman in Congress,” even though Ms. Warren also appeared at the event.
Media outlets describing the Native American candidates as potential firsts include CNN, Huffington Post, Newsweek and Vox, leading the Daily Caller to declare, “Oops! CNN (and others) don’t believe Senator Warren is Native American.”
Salon made it clear that no Native American woman has been elected to the House or the Senate with its February headline: “There’s never been a Native American woman elected to federal office—yet these two are seeking to change that.”
Also snubbing Ms. Warren was Indian Country Today, which said nothing about the senator in its Aug. 3 report, “Meet the Native Americans running for office in 2018,” even though she’s seeking reelection in November.
The first Native American woman to run for Congress was Jeanne Givens, who ran in 1988 for an Idaho House seat, followed by Ada Deer, who ran four years later in Wisconsin, according to the article.
Of the two candidates running this year, Ms. Haaland is viewed as having the best chance of victory, running in a safe Democratic district that Hillary Clinton won by double digits in the 2016 presidential race.
Ms. Davids faces a tougher battle against Republican Rep. Kevin Yoder, who has represented the Overland Park district since 2011 and notched double-digit wins in 2016, 2014 and 2012.
The Cook Political Report lists the Kansas race as “leans Republican,” but Democrats view the seat as a potential pick-up, given that Mrs. Clinton eked out a one-point victory in 2016.
Ms. Warren has said her claims of Cherokee ancestry were based on her family lore growing up in Oklahoma, acknowledging in February that “you won’t find my family members on any rolls” and insisting “I never used my family tree to get a break or get ahead.”
“I’m here today to make a promise: Every time someone brings up my family’s story, I’m going to use it to lift up the story of your families and your communities,” she said in a February speech at the National Congress of American Indians conference.