Indian Country gives strong show of support for Elizabeth Warren at candidates’ forum

Tribal leaders praised Warren despite her ancestry controversy at first ever Native American candidates' forum.

SIOUX CITY, IA - AUGUST 19: Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) answers questions from a panel member at the Frank LaMere Native American Presidential Forum on August 19, 2019 in Sioux City, Iowa. Warren was introduced by Rep. Deb Haaland (D-NM) who she has co-sponsored legislation with to help the Native American community. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)
SIOUX CITY, IA - AUGUST 19: Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) answers questions from a panel member at the Frank LaMere Native American Presidential Forum on August 19, 2019 in Sioux City, Iowa. Warren was introduced by Rep. Deb Haaland (D-NM) who she has co-sponsored legislation with to help the Native American community. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

SIOUX CITY, IOWA — Elizabeth Warren received widespread support from Native American tribal leaders Monday at the first ever Native American presidential candidates’ forum in Sioux City, Iowa. That support could prove critical as the Massachusetts senator tries to turn a page from controversy that dogged the early part of her campaign ovr past claims of Cherokee Indian ancestry.

While the forum thus far has focused almost exclusively on issues facing Native people, Warren addressed the controversy right at the start, receiving a loud ovation from tribal leaders from across the country who were in attendance.

Throughout the event, several tribal leaders referred to her on stage as the next president of the United States, citing her commitment to Native Country and her plans and proposed legislation that will address a number of issues facing Indigenous people.

“I have listened and I have learned a lot. And I am grateful for the many conversations that we’ve had together,” Warren told the tribal leaders in attendance.


“It is a great honor to be able to partner with Indian Country and that’s what I’ve tried to do as a Senator and that’s what I promise I would do as President of the United States.”

Warren has been subject to racist attacks from President Donald Trump and other leading Republicans over her past ancestry claims. That criticism has only mounted since she released her DNA results shortly before her campaign kicked-off, in which she showed she had a small percentage of Native American blood ancestry. 

Warren was speaking at the first ever presidential candidates’ forum that exclusively addresses issues facing Native Country. The Frank LaMere Presidential Candidate Forum in Sioux City will include nine presidential candidates, including eight Democrats and Independent Mark Charles oveR two days on Monday and Tuesday.

Warren last week released an ambitious plan addressing a number of issues facing Native American reservations throughout the country. She is the latest 2020 Democratic presidential candidate to release such a plan, joining former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). 


Author Marianne Williamson, who spoke shortly before Warren explained how she would address a number of critical issues facing Native Americans, and vowed to atone for the historic mistreatment of Indigenous people by white Americans.

Warren’s campaign has steadily built momentum in the polls and has been applauded for the sheer number of comprehensive policy proposals that she has released, which outline how she would work to address a number of critical issues such as providing universal child care, wiping out student debt, and solving the affordable housing crisis. Her plan to solve a number of critical issues specifically facing Native Americans was unveiled in a lengthy post on Medium last week.

Before taking the stage, Warren received a significant endorsement from U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland (D- NM) one of the first two Native American women ever elected to Congress. Haaland said during the forum that Warren’s commitment to addressing Native issues among the reasons for her support. 

“I’m asking you to listen to her message. I’m asking you to join me in my vision for the working family’s champion,” said Haaland. “The woman who doesn’t walk but runs through train stations and airports, the fearless and persistent legislator. The defender of our environment, the friend to teachers and students alike.”

During the forum, Warren spoke about a number of issues she outlined in her plan, including ending domestic violence on reservations, protecting tribal sovereignty over Native land and resources, and her vow to revoke oil pipeline permits such as the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines that threaten their soil and water.

Warren also spoke about solving homelessness, especially among veterans. She spoke about her plan for creating new federal standards and providing funding to stop voter suppression and provide access to ballot boxes. She said laws in Republican-controlled states aimed at stopping people of color, including Native Americans, are an attack on democracy.


“Voter suppression is democracy suppression, and it must stop. The idea that one of the major political parties in this country intends to retain power by keeping American citizens from voting is appalling and we need to be willing to fight back against that in all places where it shows up,” Warren said.

Warren’s plan on Native American issues also called for reversing a 1978 Supreme Court decision that prevented tribal governments from having criminal jurisdiction over non-Natives on tribal land. It also outlined how she would address the “epidemic” of missing and murdered Native women, improve rural broadband access, and expand healthcare.

Warren also partnered with Haaland on the Honoring Promises to Native Nations Act, which would provide critical funding to support federal programs that support the social and economic well-being of Native Americans. 

Cheryl Andrews-Maltais, chairperson of the Wampanoag Tribe in Massachusetts touted Warren’s track-record of sponsoring bills and initiatives that support Indian Country. She said that Warren has been doing a lot behind the scenes to make “in-roads in Indian Country” and described Warren’s past ancestry claims as a “non-issue” among her and many other tribal leaders she’s spoken with.

“All of us have our own history and we were brought up and your outlook and your views are shaped by what you’re told is your ancestry, told who you are,” Andrews-Maltais said.

“Just because somebody is not an enrolled citizen, does not mean that they do not have heritage or if that’s the community you grew up with or grew up in and those were the values that were instilled upon you than that’s who you are. Everybody has their truth.”

Russell Attebery, a tribal chairperson of the Karuk Tribe in Northern California said he wished Warren and other presidential candidates would put more focus on solving ecological issues facing his Nation, especially after their land’s natural resources were decimated by large-scale forest fires.

But he said Warren has good intentions and praised her proposals that provide new funds to solve a number of issues facing Native Country. “We do support her because obviously she’s an advocate for Indian Country and wants to see the wrongs righted,” Attebery said.

Earlier Monday, Marianne Williamson received a standing ovation from tribal leaders after she addressed a number of issues, such as giving Native Americans a video platform that will allow them to tell Americans about their stories and vowing to stop pipeline projects.

Williamson said she would solve issues such as homelessness among Native Americans and the high rates of murdered indigenous women through “spiritual healing.” She called on connecting federal agencies with Native tribal police on solving murder cases that occur on reservations.

Williamson added that in order to solve high suicide rates on Native territories, they needed to address the fact that the Native connection to their land was “destroyed by the ‘White European culture’.”

She proposed creating a pair of federal agencies, a Department of Peace, that will look at violence in America and incorporate Native traditions into the federal government and Department of Children and Youth that addresses trauma and food insecurity among American children. She wanted to create a more equitable education system and include a Native American curriculum in all schools.

Williamson also gave an impassioned speech about how important it is to stop voter suppression by expanding and restoring the Voting Rights Act.