Response to Elizabeth Warren by Ken CosentinoTweet
As a non-Native who has dedicated a vast amount of time and energy in defending Indigenous rights, I feel it necessary to explain to white people (and people of other races… but mostly white people) just why Elizabeth Warren’s claims of Native American ancestry are ridiculous. First of all, I’ve said it before and I will continue to state it until people get it through their thick skulls: Indigenous rights are human rights. Our Indigenous families are fighting for you, me, our children and the next seven generations. They are fighting for clean air, clean water and a healthy Earth. They understand that the Earth does not belong to us but that we belong to the Earth. So when a politician like Warren states that she is part Native American, her habits are immediately called into question. Is she an environmental activist? Is she truly fighting for Indigenous rights?
I will be honest with you in saying that I don’t know for sure. I don’t watch the news and I don’t give a rat’s ass about which celebrity said what, which politician promised what, and what the President’s latest Tweet said. It doesn’t matter. I know that that will piss people off and they will say “How can you form an opinion if you’re uninformed?” So listen closely: Two months ago hundreds of millions of tons of aquatic wildlife washed up dead on the shores for over a week straight. Hundreds of millions of tons. Dolphins, manatees, seals, whales, fish… you name it. This happened due to red tide which has been linked to the pesticide Round-Up. I didn’t see this in any mainstream media outlets (again, I don’t watch the news but I do pay attention to what is being reported), and hardly anyone I know outside of those who are trying to make a change even batted an eye. Whenever I told people about it, they didn’t seem to care much. “That happens all the time” was the common consensus.
Since people are so ignorant of major environmental catastrophes and what truly matters, I assume they’re looking at this Elizabeth Warren thing from one of a few standpoints. First we have the die-hard Trump supporters who hate Warren because Trump hates her. They’re posting memes with Warren in a feathered headdress, making fun of the Cherokee Nation’s response to her DNA results. Next we have the die-hard Hillary supporters who are touting off about Warren “actually being of Native American heritage,” many of them pissed off at the Cherokee Nation’s response because to them it seems to be in support of Trump. Finally we have the average middle-ground American who is ignorant to most things Indigenous and doesn’t know what to think. All of this comprised makes up about 95% of the American population, and that is a problem…
…you see, if you hang a dream catcher from your rearview mirror but you aren’t out here trying to help the cause, then fuck you. That’s cultural appropriation; a dream catcher is a sacred item, not an ornament for you to dangle like a pair of dice. Native clothing is regalia, not a costume. Most people don’t make their own clothing, so right there our Indigenous families are more advanced than the masses. The same people who hang dream catchers from their rearview mirrors are the ones supporting Elizabeth Warren’s crusade to prove that she is Native. They don’t realize how ridiculous they look because they’ve long since dehumanized Natives, or bought into the dehumanization of Natives which our society has perpetuated for generations. “Just support her, she is trying to help you!” is a commonly heard statement from Warren’s supporters, directed at the Cherokee Nation and other Natives. “You dumb Indians, she is trying to help you!” is the same as “You dumb Indians, speak English! Be thankful for your Christian name and your new haircut! Love your new family!” Nothing new to see here, move along…
This may seem radical to some people, but it’s the truth. Elizabeth Warren actually took the time to take a DNA test to prove that she is Native American. The ridiculous thing is that she hasn’t taken the time to get to know and understand Indigenous people of Turtle Island. If she had, she wouldn’t have taken the DNA test. Are you seriously telling me that she wishes to possess the ability to tell people she is Native, without having spent her entire life oppressed and dehumanized for being Native? Sorry, Elizabeth, but you can never earn that right; nor would you want to. The Natives I know don’t need people to fight for them or pity them, they come from warrior cultures. Their existence is miraculous – they’ve survived genocide and they continue to prove their spirit by preserving their languages and customs. They are not plastic trinkets that you can glue to your dashboard. They are not a commodity which you can claim to be in order to further your millennial fanbase. They are human beings and some of the purest I know.
There is an old joke among Natives that white people will say they have a great grandmother who was a Cherokee princess. Elizabeth Warren encompassed that joke and took it to a whole other level. Her DNA results prove that at some point in her ancestry there was in fact a Native American involved in some sort of sexual activity, but chances are it was not consensual. She doesn’t understand the struggle, she doesn’t even understand that there is no such thing as a “Native American” because they are Native to Turtle Island, which is much older than America. She doesn’t understand the terminology or the pain that has been endured by Indigenous people for centuries, nor does she understand the plight for clean water and sovereignty that is being fought right now as you speak this.
Every month since last November, myself and a small group of volunteers have delivered fresh water to the Tuscarora Nation who have been without clean water since 1958, after New York State dammed up two of their fresh water creeks. I started the Tuscarora Water Drive out of compassion, not to exploit our Indigenous families on the Reservation, but because something had to be done. It’s a bandaid but we will bring water as long as necessary because there are some elders who are simply not capable of going off the rez to get the water themselves; there are those who cannot afford it and there are those who have infants that need water. I have encountered every type of racism along the way, including people who tell me “if they just pay taxes they will have water.” It’s too much to have to re-educate people and deprogram their societal racism, so we push forward. All that I care about is that people who do not have fresh water are given fresh water; I want them to know that we are allies, we are family and we care. Today was our water drive and my Tuscarora mom told me “You are Tuscarora, I adopted you.” This made my heart well up with so much love and gratitude, just to hear those words (of course I hear it whenever I see her). However, I know that I am not Native. I would never say that I am Native. I cannot say that I am Native. To say so would be an insult to our ancestors and to those who suffer because they are Native; to say so would be an injustice to those who know injustice all too well. We do not have to pretend to be Native to lend a helping hand and we do not have to be Indigenous to fight for human rights. This is why Elizabeth Warren is wrong for her claims, wrong for her charades and wrong to continue using her so-called “Native ancestry” as a way to attract media attention. Thank you for reading, I will to the Creator that we can all heal from this sickness of mind which has plagued mankind for thousands of years.
by Ken Cosentino. The Niagarian Ken Cosentino is an award winning filmmaker and special effects artist from Niagara Falls, NY. He is a writer for The Hype Magazine, and he’s been quoted and interviewed for his work in Sci-Fi Magazine and GQ Magazine, including a cover story in Scream Magazine. His work is inspired by Jim Henson, Stan Winston, and Walt Disney.