Sen. Elizabeth Warren on Monday apologized to Native Americans for her “mistakes” in falsely claiming to be one of them.
Dogged for years by criticism for erroneously calling herself an “American Indian,” the 2020 Democratic hopeful seized the opportunity to apologize directly to tribal leaders and activists at Frank LaMere Native American Presidential Forum in Sioux City, Iowa.
“Like anyone who’s being honest with themselves, I know that I have made mistakes,” Ms. Warren said. “I am sorry for harm I have caused. I have listened and I have learned a lot, and I am grateful for the many conversations that we’ve had together.”
Ms. Warren, a senator from Massachusetts, pledge solidarity with Native Americans and promised if elected president to funnel more federal dollars to tribal communities.
Her mea culpa came in her opening remarks.
Later, a tribal leader who is a Warren supporter praised her conduct and blasted President Trump for calling her “Pocahontas.”
“He disparages one of our heroes,” the tribal leader said.
Mr. Trump gave the nickname to Ms. Warren because she claimed for years to have Native American heritage, including listing her ethnicity as “American Indian” on a 1986 Texas bar registration card and inclusion as such in a roster of minority faculty members at Harvard University.
The controversy has shadowed her since her 2012 run for U.S. Senate when she was first challenged on the issue and could not substantiate her claim.
Ms. Warren, who grew up in Oklahoma, has insisted that calling herself an American Indian did not advance her career in law or academia.
She took a DNA test last year that showed “strong evidence” of Native American ancestry going back six to 10 generations. Her DNA was between 1/64 and 1/1032 Cherokee, which is close to the average percentage of Native American DNA found in most white Americans.
Ms. Warren apologized at the time to the Cherokee Nation, which called the test an “inappropriate and wrong” method for claiming tribal membership.
At the forum, Ms. Warren highlighted how her plan to slap higher taxes on the wealthy would result in more programs, benefits and funding for tribal communities to help repair years of neglect and discrimination.
“There is a sovereignty and respect part to this and there is also a plain old money part to this,” Ms. Warren said. “It is not just enough to acknowledge sovereignty. We have to put resources behind it.”
The forum was hosted by Native American advocacy groups and was billed as a nonpartisan event.
The two-day forum made history as the first presidential forum to focus exclusively on Native American issues. Several candidates are scheduled to appear at the forum Tuesday, including Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont, Sen. Kamala Harris of California and Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York.
On Monday, New Age self-help author Marianne Williamson wowed the crowd with an impassioned call to action, eliciting loud cheers and applause.
“This is a time for the Native American community, as it is for all America, not just to complain about the power we don’t have but own the power we do have,” she said. “When enough Americans vote — Native American and otherwise — then all of the nonsense we have spoken about today will stop because we the people will demand what we want.”
Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota also took the stage at the forum Monday. Montana Gov. Steve Bullock addressed the forum via a video live stream.
Ms. Warren garnered several rounds of warm applause, but the crowd was not enthusiastic at times.
During the question-and-answer session, one of the tribal leaders was surprised by the smattering of applause when he described Ms. Warren as the “future president.”
“I would expect more excitement from our native citizens,” he quipped, sparking louder cheers and applause.
A big applause line for Ms. Warren was her vow to revoke permits for the Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines. The pipelines that cross tribal lands have faced fierce opposition from Native American activists.
The projects were blocked by the Obama administration but revived by Mr. Trump.
“Tribal governments are the ones who should control what happens on tribal lands,” Ms. Warren said. “I will revoke the permit for the pipelines.”