WASHINGTON ― Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) made a surprise appearance at a Native American conference on Tuesday.
Her visit at the event, hosted by the National Conference of American Indians, comes after she apologized to the Cherokee Nation for releasing a DNA test in October in an attempt to prove she had Native ancestry. The Washington Post also recently revealed that Warren listed her race as “American Indian” when she filled out a form for the Texas state bar in 1986.
In her speech on Tuesday, Warren called for Congress to take more action on Native issues, including “the alarming number of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls,” suicide rates among Native people, housing, health care and addiction.
But most of her remarks were spent praising Native women, saying she was there to lift up Native voices. She specifically mentioned Reps. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) and Sharice Davids (D-Kan.) ― the first two Native women elected to Congress ― and Cheryl Andrews-Maltais, chairwoman of the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head Aquinnah.
“The agenda is enormous and the fights will be tough,” Warren said. “And in tough fights, it is important to have leaders like Cheryl out in front. Cheryl is warm, and understanding, and sharp. She’s forceful and, let’s say it — she persists!”
Warren has faced criticism from some Native people for amplifying sensitive issues around tribal citizenship versus ancestry, though she never claimed citizenship in a tribe.
President Donald Trump routinely makes racist attacks on Warren for saying she has Native ancestry, and says she tried to use her ancestry claims to advance her career. The Republican Party has piled on with racist attacks, too, as Warren embarks on a 2020 presidential bid. There is no evidence Warren’s ancestry claims have ever helped her advance her career.
Haaland introduced Warren at the event Tuesday, saying, “Indian Country needs strong allies like Elizabeth Warren, who’s unwavering commitment to Native communities and Native American women and children is needed in this political era.”
Warren also spoke in a surprise appearance at the 2018 conference for the National Conference of American Indians and received a standing ovation. In that speech, she promised to stand up for Native American issues and insisted, “I never used my family tree to get a break or get ahead. I never used it to advance my career.”
National and state polls place Warren in the middle of a crowded field of presidential candidates. Most show the best-known potential candidates, like Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders, leading the field.