Warren said in an interview that she heard of her mother’s Native American blood through a series of conversations the two of them had while Warren played with a favorite set of paper dolls. The dolls included a groom and a bride in a pink wedding dress. One day Warren, then about 7, asked her mother about her own wedding dress, and her mother said she had not had one. When Warren pressed for details, “she said no one came to her wedding at all. This is when I realized something was wrong. . . . That is when she explained.”
Warren said she was informed by others in the family that her mother’s mother “was a little bit Delaware, and her father was more Cherokee.” Told that her brother recalled the opposite, she added, “It might have been the other way around.” Her grandmother, she added, “always talked about PawPaw being a lot more Indian.”
The Cherokee Nation, like many tribes, will only release the names of those on its rolls to those claiming membership. While a spokeswoman for the Delaware Tribe of Bartlesville, Okla., one of several branches of the tribe, said that their roll includes a member with the name of Reed born around the turn of the century, she would not provide additional information. Warren’s campaign declined to request the information from either tribe.
Some among the many descendants of Hannie and Laura Crawford’s siblings — who did not marry Reeds — say they had never heard of Native American blood in the family. Dixie Crawford Hicks, another of Warren’s second cousins and the chairwoman of the Department of Social and Behavioral Science at Faulkner University, a Christian university in Montgomery, Ala., plumbed deep into the family history in writing a biography of her grandfather in 1976. Rosco Crawford, Hannie Crawford’s brother, told Hicks that as a young boy living in the Creek Nation of Indian Territory, the Indians were “pretty mean.” Once, when a Creek was hitting Crawford’s younger brother, their father shot and wounded the Indian, according to her biography, on file at California State University at Fullerton.
Hicks’s father, Clyde Crawford, a first cousin to Warren’s mother, said he had no knowledge of the family having Native American blood, according to Hicks.
So, too, Vivian Renfrow, 99, a first cousin to Warren’s mother living in Tulsa, said she never knew that her aunts Hannie and Laura married men who some believed to have Indian roots. She remembers being fearful of Indians in the years just after statehood, “who would stop by on their horses at night and Daddy would call Mama to get the gun in case they did something, but they never did.”
However, other descendants of Hannie and Laura — those with a direct connection to the Reed brothers — say they were told stories about their Cherokee and Delaware blood similar to those heard by Warren and her brother. Like their cousins, they never questioned the truth of what they were told and apparently made no attempt to document their roots.
Gloria Wysong, a cousin of Warren’s, said in an e-mail that her mother told her that the family’s heritage “was Delaware, but the Delaware and Cherokee merged together. She’d heard the stories from her grandfather who built houses in Indian Territory.” Wysong, who lives in Oklahoma City, and others in the family declined to elaborate.
Robert C. Boraker, a retired journalist and amateur genealogist who said he is Warren’s fourth cousin — their great-great-grandfathers were brothers — said his father often told him that his grandmother, a Crawford, was one-eighth Indian. “It was Cherokee blood,” said Boraker, who lives in St. Albans, England, and publishes a family newsletter that includes the Crawford line. “There was no documentation, but it was what we knew, what we were told.”
Warren’s brother David, eight years her senior, calls the public controversy over the subject “a bunch of baloney.” He remembers relatives cautioning him when he played cowboys and Indians as a child. “My aunts said, ‘Be careful shooting the Indians because some of them are your relatives.’ ” But most shied away from the subject of the family’s heritage, Herring added, because “it wasn’t something you were proud of.”
By the time Warren came of age in the early 1960s, that attitude still prevailed in certain quarters of Oklahoma society. In bars and restaurants outside Oklahoma’s urban centers, signs could still be seen saying, “No Dogs or Indians Allowed.”
While there was greater tolerance in urban centers such as Oklahoma City, Native Americans continued to encounter discrimination and hostility. As Jerry Bread, outreach coordinator for the Native American Studies program at the University of Oklahoma, puts it, “It was not acceptable socially or racially to be an Indian at the time,” said Bread, who is half Cherokee and half Kiowa. “White folks did not want to be identified as Indian whether they were one-eighth or one-half. In a short time, the reverse happened, as there were benefits to be had.”Continued...