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'Let's talk about Pocahontas,' Elizabeth Warren tells tribal leaders, addressing Native heritage claims

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) gave a surprise speech at the National Congress of American Indians in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, and she started by taking a whack at the elephant (not) in the room. "I've noticed that every time my name comes up, President Trump likes to talk about Pocahontas," Warren said. "So I figured, let's talk about Pocahontas." And she did.

Accusations that Warren misled people by claiming Cherokee heritage, based on family lore and not other evidence, did not prevent Warren from being elected to the Senate in 2012, but they are a cloud over her possible presidential run. Trump didn't start "our country's disrespect of Native people," she said:

But now we have a president who can't make it through a ceremony honoring Native American war heroes without reducing Native history, Native culture, Native people to the butt of a joke. The joke, I guess, is supposed to be on me. I get why some people think there's hay to be made here. You won't find my family members on any rolls, and I'm not enrolled in a tribe. ... I understand that tribal membership is determined by tribes — and only by tribes. I never used my family tree to get a break or get ahead. I never used it to advance my career. [Elizabeth Warren]

Warren affirmed her belief that she has Native American heritage, a common notion in her native Oklahoma. "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," she said. "The story they lived will always be a part of me. And no one — not even the president of the United States — will ever take that part of me away." She got a standing ovation. The Republican National Committee, which had criticized "Fauxcanhontas" for not being scheduled to speak, also criticized her for speaking.