Is Elizabeth Warren of Native American ancestry – and does it matter

Someone asked this question on Quora:

Q: Why is Elizabeth Warren being criticised, either you have or don’t have native American blood, she does?

I read somewhere that the average American has 0.18% Native American ancestry. That means 1/555 – in other words one ancestor 9 generations back. People with that amount are unlikely to have any stories passed down, or any awareness that they have any native American blood.

The report on EW’s ancestry notes that she has between 1/64th and 1/1024th Native American ancestry. At the highest part of the range, that is one ancestor 6 generations back. More than the average, but not a lot.

My daughter has about that much – all of it from her mother’s side, since I am pure Scandinavian – living in Denmark for at least 8 generations. Not culturally significant – most of my ex-wife’s family are more apt to note that they have three lines going back to two people on the Mayflower. One line that now mostly lives in the Texas panhandle came from South Carolina, via Arkansas and Oklahoma around the time of the “Trail of Tears”. No recorded proven Native American interbreeding. But of course we speculate that there was some Cherokee connection. The idea gave us an incentive to feel connected to the historic sufferings of the Cherokee and by extension other native tribes, as we read “The Little House on the Prairie” at bedtime over the years. But of course, we are not Indians.

Elizabeth Warren says her father’s family rejected her mother, because she “looked like an Indian with her high cheekbones”, so the idea of Native American ancestry – which at the time was unverifiable – was a personal story of having to fight racial discrimination. And about privileged white men not believing a woman.

So to this Dane, the premise of your question is so simplistic that “it is not even wrong”.