Warren owns it https://t.co/KEaMKMtcDh
— Blake Hounshell (@blakehounshell) February 14, 2018
Families tell each other stories to establish their place in the world — even if the story is “We’re just normal, we have no stories.” Because my own parents came from families that believed in putting the ‘fun’ in ‘dysfunctional’, they also cheerfully introduced us to the concept of the unreliable narrator about the time we were old enough to go off to school. And even so, the eventual unspooling would prove weirder than any fiction about Irish kingdoms and hidden murders (the real family skeleton would turn out to be a failed trans-Atlantic Romeo-and-Juliet story that didn’t emerge until after the deaths of both participants and their only offspring).
Obviously I’ve sympathized with Senator Warren’s “Pocahontas” problem; she trusted what her parents told her — what her parents, and their community, believed — but the rules about claiming Native American ancestry have pretty much been reversed over the last half-century. I still hope she’ll be my senator for a great many years to come, but it’s good that she’s done her best to clear the deck to campaign for other Democrats as we march towards 2018.
Per the Boston Globe:
Senator Elizabeth Warren made a surprise appearance at the National Congress of American Indians Wednesday, forcefully denouncing President Trump’s use of the name “Pocahontas” to deride her and defending her claims of Native American heritage more expansively than she has before.
The Massachusetts Democrat also made an impassioned pledge to advocate for issues of importance for Native Americans. The speech was a clear attempt to put to rest a sensitive issue that has been used by her enemies to attack her character and another signal of her potential 2020 presidential ambitions.
Warren did not apologize for her undocumented claims that her mother’s family had Cherokee blood — instead, reaffirming: “My mother’s family was part Native American. And my daddy’s parents were bitterly opposed to their relationship. So, in 1932, when Mother was 19 and Daddy had just turned 20, they eloped.”
“The story they lived will always be a part of me,” she said, as tears came to her eyes. “And no one — not even the president of the United States — will ever take that part of me away.”
But she told the gathered tribal leaders from around the country that she drew a distinction between claiming native ancestry and claiming tribal membership. She repeatedly referred to Trump’s insensitivity, not only in calling her Pocahontas but in doing it last year during an event at the White House meant to honor Navajo code-talker veterans of World War II…
Warren — who has been criticized for not advocating more aggressively in the Senate for Native American issues, given her claims to ancestry — also appeared to assert greater common cause with Native Americans than she has in the past.
“For far too long, your story has been pushed aside, to be trotted out only in cartoons and commercials,” she said. “So 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.”…
Rebecca Nagle, the Cherokee activist who wrote the ThinkProgress column, said on Wednesday that the speech was a “giant step in the right direction.”
“It’s a historic moment for Indian country for a senator to make a speech like that,” Nagle said. “That’s exactly what she needed to do.”…
Mr. Charles P. Pierce adds:
Here’s a partial transcript, via The Boston Globe:
… In the fairy tale, Pocahontas saves John Smith from execution at the hands of her father. Except that was probably made up too. In the fable, her baptism as “Rebecca” and her marriage to a Jamestown settler are held up to show the moral righteousness of colonization. In reality, the fable is used to bleach away the stain of genocide. As you know, Pocahontas’s real journey was far more remarkable — and far darker — than the myth admits.
But in her teens, Pocahontas was abducted, imprisoned, and held captive. Oral history of the Mattaponi tribe indicates that she was ripped away from her first husband and child and raped in captivity. Eventually she married another John — John Rolfe. Her marriage led to an uneasy harmony between Jamestown and the tribes, a period that some historians call the Peace of Pocahontas. But she was not around to enjoy it. John Rolfe paraded her around London to entertain the British and prop up financial investments in the Virginia Company. She never made it home. She was about 21 when she died, an ocean separating her from her people. Indigenous people have been telling the story of Pocahontas — the real Pocahontas — for four centuries. A story of heroism. And bravery. And pain. And, for almost as long, her story has been taken away by powerful people who twisted it to serve their own purposes.
In the Capitol, right there in the rotunda, there is John Gadsby Chapman’s a massive painting, The Baptism Of Pocahontas. It is a huge and beautiful lie that has been hanging there since 1840, all through the debates over treaties that never were worth the paper on which they were printed, all through the passage of military appropriations that paid for the genocide in the West. And now, Elizabeth Warren works in that same building and, on Wednesday, she tried in her own way to put paid to all of the lies and broken promises. She should not be alone.
And then there was this *other* Warren-related story, which didn’t get nearly so much ink…
— Catherine Rampell (@crampell) February 14, 2018