Three Cherokee women who traveled to Boston this week to confront US Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren over her claims to Native American ancestry say that her campaign has not returned their calls.
The visit is a new provocation of Warren, who had been able to get back on message in recent weeks after more than a month of awkward and difficult questions over her claims that she is part Native American.
Twila Barnes, a 44-year-old Missouri woman, insists her visit to Boston is not politically motivated. She said she and the two other women on the trip – who came from Oklahoma and Portland, Oregon – voted for President Obama.
“Our purpose is education of the public for the most part, because claiming Cherokee ancestry without any proof is a really,really common thing but it can be a harmful thing,” Barnes said by phone Tuesday evening.
She said many families have myths about their Native American ancestry, but when they are false, they can take away opportunities from legitimate tribe members. Warren has said she believes she is part Native American, but has no documentation. She has called herself Native American in Harvard personnel documents, but deans and faculty who helped recruit her there and at previous schools say the issue was not a factor in her hiring.
On Tuesday night, Alethea Harney, a spokeswoman for the Warren campaign, said, “The people of Massachusetts are concerned about their jobs, the future for their kids, and the security of their retirement. Scott Brown would rather talk about anything else.
“The out-of-state group in question is being promoted and supported by a right wing extremist who is on the record supporting and contributing money to Scott Brown. It is past time we moved on to the important issues facing middle class families in Massachusetts – even if Scott Brown won’t.”
Barnes, who keeps a blog about the controversy and has researched Warren’s genealogy, is also planning to meet with Senator Scott Brown’s campaign manager Wednesday. She said she wanted to ask the senator to advocate for Native American issues, but until asked by a reporter, she did not realize Brown has a separate official staff to handle his legislative duties.
“I’m not a political type person,” said Barnes. She acknowledged that some of her media interviews were set up by a conservative blogger, William A. Jacobson. She said he offered to help her but that she does not know him.
“It was a nice gesture, but I think it was taken out of context,” she said.
She said her travel was paid for through donations to the website and her own money.Noah Bierman can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @noahbierman.