/Warren apologizes for harm I have caused at Native American event

Warren apologizes for harm I have caused at Native American event

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Elizabeth Warren S.C. Town Hall

Sen. Elizabeth Warren was widely panned last fall when she promoted the results of a DNA test revealing that she has some native ancestry going back six to 10 generations. | Sean Rayford/Getty Images

Sen. Elizabeth Warren apologized Monday to a Native American audience over her handling of past claims of native ancestry, telling a group of tribal leaders that she realized it had been a mistake.

“Now, before I go any further in this I want to say this: Like anyone who’s been honest with themselves, I know that I have made mistakes,” Warren, appearing at a forum for presidential candidates, said at the outset of her presentation. “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.”

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Warren was widely panned last fall when she promoted the results of a DNA test revealing that she has some native ancestry going back six to 10 generations. Advocates as well as the Cherokee Nation ripped the senator for appearing to appropriate a tribal identity in order to settle a political controversy, namely President Donald Trump derisively referring to Warren as “Pocahontas.”

The moniker stems from accusations Warren tried to leverage her native ancestry to gain access to employment privileges afforded to minorities, though an extensive review by the Boston Globe found there was no evidence to support those claims.

The Massachusetts senator initially defended herself by contending that she took the test only to put an end to Trump’s gibes, acknowledging that “DNA & family history has nothing to do with tribal affiliation or citizenship, which is determined only — only — by Tribal Nations.” But in the lead-up to her campaign launch, she privately apologized to tribal leaders.

Warren received a standing ovation when she took the stage. One questioner remarked that he was excited to have just hugged the next president of the United States. Another implored her to channel former first lady Michelle Obama’s “when they go low, we go high” mantra in response to Trump’s slurs, and called her proposal to add a Cabinet-level post for coordinating Native American affairs “history-making.”

Warren was introduced at the forum by New Mexico Rep. Deb Haaland, who was one of the first two Native American women elected to Congress and who announced her endorsement of Warren right before she took the stage.

Warren received her loudest applause of the day when she vowed to revoke permits issued to build two major pipelines slated to cross through parts of tribal lands, the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines. The projects, she said, should have never been approved in the first place.

One panelist noted that he’d not seen a single candidate for president propose a plan for tribal “reconstruction,” or federal spending on infrastructure and other types of improvements. Warren replied that the sweeping plan for tribal communities she rolled out in advance of the forum was meant to invite more conversation from Native American leaders but called the issue one of “show me your budget and I’ll tell you your values.”

“I would like to start with the U.S. government honoring its current trust and treaty obligations in full and see how far that gets us,” she said.

Warren also returned to her campaign pledge to bring about big structural change, repeatedly vowing to pour money into communities she said had been neglected for too long, and telling the crowd that having plans to boost tribal communities don’t work “if it’s all words and no money.”

“Where a country spends its money tells you what that country values,” she said.

“The federal government’s history with our tribal nations has been one of broken promises,” Warren told the crowd. “We need to make change. We need to honor our trust and treaty obligations. We’re not going to do that with one little statute over here and a couple changes in regulations over there.”

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