I’ve done the 23andMe test. I’m 50% Scandinavian.
More significantly, I knew my great-grandparents personally; my great-grandmother was a Swedish immigrant, while my great-grandfather was part of a Norwegian-American community in Minnesota that had been around for generations. They spoke some kind of Norwegian/Swedish/English pidgin, they had connections with the Old Country, we ate Scandinavian food at home, we went to a church that had services in Swedish and Norwegian.
I think I can confidently say that I’m a Scandinavian-American.
The other 50% of my genome is mostly English/Irish/Scot. That side of my family emigrated to America in the 17th/18th century. All cultural vestiges of that connection have been scoured clean by a few hundred years of history, poverty, and total immersion in this mongrel American pastiche we live in, and they retained no connections with family on the other side of the Atlantic. I wouldn’t be as comfortable with claiming to be a British-American, despite my genes sending a clear signal of my biological ancestry.
Elizabeth Warren is not Indian. A few genetic scraps from a distant ancestor do not make you an Indian, any more than the 0.6% of my DNA that is Iberian makes me a Spaniard.
Bustamante’s analysis places Warren’s Native American ancestor between six and 10 generations ago, with the report estimating eight generations. “The identity of the sample donor, Elizabeth Warren, was not known to the analyst during the time the work was performed,” the report says.
Eight generations back means she’s about 0.4% Indian, with zero cultural association. No Indian tribe recognizes her as a member. I think it was a terrible mistake for Warren to play the genetic essentialist game and essentially vindicate racist arguments about one drop of blood making you a member of a racial group, and if vague rumors of a distant relative being a Cherokee princess makes you an Indian, then a multitude of people who belong with 99% certainty to the oppressor genetic group that committed genocide get to play Indian. This is just wrong.
That said, I have a bit of sympathy for her in that she’s trying to defend herself against a racist bigot who has been mocking her remote, slight Indian affiliation by using it as a pejorative. Warren did not use her ancestry as a tool to gain an advantage, to her credit, and it’s shameful that anyone would think that association with one of the most strongly oppressed groups in this country is a way exploit the system.
We’re now at the point where we’re grimacing a bit at Warren’s exaggeration of her connection to Indian culture, while at the same time we’re tolerating a president who openly expresses contempt for Indian culture. All the hypocrites who are berating Warren ought to be even more aghast that Trump is frequently using “Pocahantas” as a slur. But they aren’t.
Also, it’s naive to think that Trump would pay up on his $1 million dollar bet. He’s always been a welcher.
Jennifer Raff weighs in. She’s an expert on this stuff.