Elizabeth Warren apologizes to Cherokee leaders over DNA test, reports say

Christal Hayes

WASHINGTON – Sen. Elizabeth Warren apologized to Cherokee Nation leadership about her DNA test that aimed to prove Native American ancestry, according to media reports. 

The apology comes just days before Warren, a Democrat representing Massachusetts, is set to make an announcement about whether she will run for president in 2020. 

Warren, who announced an exploratory committee for president on New Year's Eve, has been touring around the nation ahead of her expected announcement to join the growing pool of Democrats who aim to challenge President Donald Trump for the White House. But the issue of her ancestry has come up again and again, something that is sure to dog her campaign.

Before voicing her presidential aspirations, Warren released the results of a DNA test, hoping to quell the questions about her ancestry. The test showed she had distance Native American heritage but led to fierce criticism by tribal leaders and backlash that has clouded her first few months of campaigning. 

More: 'Why did you undergo the DNA test?': Elizabeth Warren asked about ancestry in first question at Iowa event

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The Intercept and New York Times reported that Warren privately reached out to Cherokee Nation leadership and apologized for the test and any harm it may have caused. 

"Senator Warren has reached out to us and has apologized to the tribe," Cherokee Nation spokeswoman Julie Hubbard told The Intercept. "We are encouraged by this dialogue and understanding that being a Cherokee Nation tribal citizen is rooted in centuries of culture and laws not through DNA tests. We are encouraged by her action and hope that the slurs and mockery of tribal citizens and Indian history and heritage will now come to an end."

Warren released results from the DNA test in October, which showed "strong evidence" of Native American ancestry, partially in response to criticism from Republicans, including President Donald Trump who nicknamed her "Pocahontas."

Conservatives have attacked Warren for claiming Cherokee heritage in order to gain favor for jobs that helped boost her career, something her former employers have said did not play a role in the hiring process. 

Last month, Warren addressed the test when taking questions from supporters at a rally in Iowa. 

"Why did you undergo the DNA testing and give Donald Trump more fodder to be a bully?" an audience member asked the Democrat. 

Warren said the test wasn't meant to show any claim to a tribe and said she understood and respected the difference between ancestry and tribal citizenship. But, she said after all the attacks, she merely just wanted to "put it all out there." 

"I'm glad you asked that question. I genuinely am and I'm glad for us to have a chance to talk about it," Warren started out in her response. "I am not a person of color. I am not a citizen of a tribe. Tribal citizenship is very different from ancestry." 

Warren went on explaining that when she ran for public office for the first time in 2012, Republicans "honed in on this part of my history" and made a lot of "racial slurs." 

"So my decision was, I'm just going to put it all out there," Warren said of her decision to release the results of the DNA test. 

"I can't stop Donald Trump from what he's going to do. I can't stop him from hurling racial insults," Warren said. "But what I can do is I can be in this fight for all of our families."

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Elizabeth Warren apologizes to Cherokee leaders over DNA test, reports say