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Supporting the Ninth Amendment

Could Elizabeth Warren Be a Minority?

UPDATE 5/8/2012 5:14 pm:  Let’s look at the arguments against Warren’s heritage.

  1. The son gained no advantage by claiming his mother was Indian.
  2. The area where O.C. Sarah Neoma Smith was born was Indian land.
  3. The census records are only a valid proof if the census taker had the option to put Indian down for race. One of the comments states that assimilated Indians were listed as white at the time.
  4. The Jonathan that is claimed to be the militia member is not Warren’s ancestor but a distant  cousin. There are two Jonathans in the family tree. The report linked below only covers her direct ancestry.

Everyone is forgetting that the Cherokee were one of the “civilized” tribes. They had adopted the English way of life to a great extent, including keeping slaves. They were as civilized as any white settler in the area at that time and cannot be differentiated based on occupation or residence.

UPDATE 5/1/2012 10:19 pm: Child is correct in his research. Neoma or Sarah Smith, born 1794 in North Carolina, seems to be Warren’s Cherokee ancestor. Two caveats. The family is not enrolled with the tribe. The sole reason to believe that she was Cherokee was her son, William’s statement upon his marriage. Clearly it would seem that Warren can claim to be 1/32 Cherokee.

I can find no support for the story that Warren told to the Boston Globe about her pioneering grandmother. While she was the oldest child at the time of the Oklahoma land rush, research appears to show that her mother was still alive.

UPDATE 5/1/2012 7:38 pm: A good Boston Globe article titled Document ties Warren kin to Cherokees. It reports the Chris Child finds but points out that it is not the end of the story. I continue to explore my findings, which are based on a 1880 Census report. Which John H. Crawford married Palina Bowen?

UPDATE 5/1/2012 noon: I sent this link to Hillary Chabot from the Boston Herald. She passed it on to Chris Child. Genealogist of the Newbury Street Press, New England Historic Genealogical Society, who believes that he has discovered the Cherokee link. He believes that I have the parents of John Huston Crawford (1858-1924) incorrect. Child feels that Crawford’s paternal grandmother was Cherokee.

Elizabeth Warren is the Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate seat from Massachusetts currently held by Republican Scott Brown. During her career, she was identified repeatedly as a member of a minority. She is currently claiming that family lore says that her ancestry includes Delaware and Cherokee blood, making her part Native American.

Her life story is compelling. Small town Oklahoma girl rises from poverty to make good. However, has any part of her success resulted from affirmative action programs and policies designed to assist minorities? The record is clear. Employers and colleagues considered her a minority.

Elizabeth Herring Warren is the daughter of Donald Herring and Pauline Reed. The claim is that her Native American heritage comes through her mother. The tribes involved are the Delaware and the Cherokee.

Pauline Reed was the daughter of Harry Gunn Reed and Hannie Elvira Crawford.

Harry Gunn Reed married Hannie Crawford on June 2, 1893, in Sebastian, Arkansas. Reed was born in 1873, in Illinois or possibly Ohio. Crawford was born in Missouri in 1875 or 1876, according to Warren in a February 2012 Boston Globe interview.

Warren’s family came to Oklahoma at the end the 19th century, part of the land rush that preceded statehood.

Her grandmother, Hannie Crawford Reed, who had already lost her own mother, drove a horse-drawn wagon from Missouri to the territory at the age of 13, according to family lore. Hannie’s father rode ahead on a horse.

“Her little brothers and sisters were bouncing around in the back of a wagon,” Warren said of her grandmother, who lived to age 94. “That woman made life happen.”

Harry Reed’s parents were Joseph Reed, born in Ohio, and Charity Gorman, born in Illinois.

Hannie Crawford’s given name was, apparently, Bethanie Elvina. Her parents were John Huston Crawford, born in Missouri, and Palina Ann Bowen, also born in Missouri.

Warren’s story falls apart. Grandmother did not lose her mother at an early age. Palina Crawford died in 1905, in Arkansas. Hannie was born in Missouri. She had siblings that were born after her, in Texas 1883, Arkansas in 1889 and finally Oklahoma 1894, 1896 and 1897.

Incorrect: John Houston Crawford was a druggist in Missouri. His father was a physician, born in Kentucky. His mother came from England.

Palina Bowen’s father was born in Indiana. Her mother was born in Kentucky. Both outlived Palina and both died in Clarksville, Arkansas, where Palina also died.

Incorrect: Nothing in Warren’s maternal ancestry leaps out as Native American. Her mother’s family was raised in the Indian Territory, and that is the most that can be said about Warren’s minority status.

The story in the Boston Globe just is not possible given the other records that seem to exist.

Here is the current report on Elizabeth Warren’s maternal ancestry.

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  1. Further research into Elizabeth Warren’s ancestry reveals that her great great great grandmother was not, nor did her family claim that she was Indian. The marriage license of Warren’s great great granduncle, William J. Crawford to Mary E. Woolford in 1894 in Logan Co., Oklahoma, which Childs claims lists Neoma O.C. Smith was being Cherokee. the original marriage and marriage license can be found here:

    Neoma O. C. Smiths parents were Wyat Smith born abt 1768 in South Carolina and Margaret Peggy Kaigler born 1770 South Carolina. There is not indication that either of the individuals were Indian either.

  2. In answer to Russell Dee, you are absolutely correct. In fact, Bill John Baker, the present principal chief of the Cherokee, is only 1/32 Cherokee by blood. (By the way, when a particular Native Tribe or Nation determines what is called “blood quantum” as, let us say, 1/32 Cherokee, it doesn’t mean you might not also be, let’s say, 1/16 Choctaw and 1/32 Delaware, etc. They don’t determine that, but it is often the case that the person would be more than 1/32 Indian).
    The only thing that is a little different in the case of Elizabeth Warren is that she is not, and never remotely claimed to be, an enrolled Cherokee, or even a Cherokee at all. It is even quite possible that Neoma, even if she was a fullblood, was not on Cherokee rolls. I would point out, though, that Bledsoe County TN was historically Cherokee land and not ceded until 1805, so there must have been plenty of Cherokee living there, even after cession. I don’t know when the Smiths moved there from NC, but it would have been better for them NOT to be known legally as Indians. They would have held their land in Bledsoe Co. just like the whites, in freehold, and that was fortunate for them, with mounting pressure for removal — culminating in the Trail of Tears (1838-39), when about 1/4 of the 17,000 Cherokees who were forcibly marched from NC to Oklahoma, died on the way. The route, by the way, passed right through Fort Smith (Sebastian County), Arkansas.
    But even though Ms. Warren never claimed to be a Cherokee, still you are correct because as far as “blood,” she is no different than many legal citizens of the Oklahoma or Eastern (NC) or Keetoowah Band Cherokee today.
    In closing, I just want to say that I think the problem comes down to the identity of her great-grandfather Jonathan Houston Crawford, Hannie’s father, because Neoma did have a grandson named Jonathan (son of her youngest daughter Matilda) who was almost the same age as Hannie’s grandfather, according to the 1860 census, and may well be the same person.
    But however this is settled, I have been appalled by the anti-Warren “poutrage,” which — in addition to a great deal of very offensive Indian stereotype words and expressions — has shown almost total confusion between tribal membership, blood quantum, claiming to be an Indian, and claiming Indian ancestry/heritage. And I am still wondering what supposedly unfair advantage she derived from it, when it was only a matter of family pride. If Harvard listed her as a minority, that’s Harvard’s business. I think it’s great that this cultural lore and feeling was passed down in the family for so many generations.

  3. In answer to Rich, there is absolutely no warrant at this point to say that Neoma was likely not Cherokee. I would think a person would know his own mother’s ethnicity, especially as he was half that himself, and there would have been no reason to misrepresent, since although their residence was in Cherokee Nation, William was clearly not an enrolled Cherokee, nor was his bride. As far as everyone being listed as white (1830, 1840, 1860), this was common practice with mixed-bloods who were not on tribal rolls or living on a reservation. “If she was an Indian, she would have been reported as such by the enumerator” — not so. As far as her name, many Indians used non-Indian names for all everyday purposes, whether or not they had an Indian name. Consider that probably the most famous Cherokee chief of all time was named John Ross (1790-1866), although his Cherokee name was Guwisguwi, although few people know that.

  4. This issue is about the law. It is about whether or not Elizabeth Warren falsely claimed native american minority status. You assurances that her great-great grandmother being an indian is not sufficient to make her part native american under the law is what is the true nonesense. You say that having just one native americAn relative amongst 62 relatives is not sufficient to claim minority status but in fact you are wrong. The percentage allowed to claim minority status is not based on YOUR (republican hack) personal subjective opinion. It is based on legal fact. In fact, 1/32 is a sufficient percentage for her to claim native american status. In fact, the present leader of the entire cherokee nation is the same percentage native american – 1/32. Eat that hack.

  5. I might add that the only thing the marriage certificate proves is there is a basis for the family lore. It does not prove that Elizabeth Warren is Native American. Only that a distant uncle claimed it. It’s possible the family lore existed even at this early date. William J. Crawford, who made the comment about his mother being Cherokee, was Preston Huston Crawford’s younger brother. It was his second marriage and he was 57 years old at the time.

  6. The great-great-great-grandmother in question was named Neoma (Smith) Crawford, who lived in Bledsoe County, Tennesee. She was born around 1794 in North Carolina. She married Jonathan H. Crawford in 1819.

    Each of us has 62 ancestors between us and the great-great-great-grandparent generation of our ancestry. If Neoma was Cherokee (which she likely was not, see below), that means that Warren is arguing she’s a minority because one of those 62 ancestors was Indian. That proposition is ludicrous, and offensive to actual Native Americans.
    But it’s unlikely Neoma was Indian. The only document suggesting she was Indian was the 1894 marriage certificate for her son, William J. Crawford, who supplied the information to county officials.

    But this secondary documentation is completely contradicted by the 1830, 1840, and 1860 US Censuses where she and her children are listed as White. If she was an Indian, she would have been reported as such by the enumerator.

    In 1830, the US Census lists her and her entire family as White (“No. of Free White Persons: 6; No. of Others: 0). 1830 US Census, Tennesee, Bledsoe County, page 274. In the US Census of 1840, Neoma and her family are all listed as White (“No. of Free White Persons 10”). 1840 US Census, Tennesee, Jackson Co., District 4, page 4. In the 1860 US Census, Neoma — by then a widow — is listed as White, as are all her children.

    So official US documents over 30 years list her as White; it isn’t until the 1894 marriage certificate of her son that any recorded mention is made of her being Cherokee.

    Finaly, note that the name Neoma is not Indian, as some have suggested. Neoma is a Greek-derived name from the Greek elements neos (new) and mene (moon) meaning “new moon.” It is not Indian. While not common, it does occur with some frequency in the early 1800s into the late 1870s, especially in the South

  7. Elizabeth Herring’s Maternal Line:
    M: Pauline Reed
    F: Donald J. Herring
    GF: Harry Gunn Reed
    GM: Bethanie Elvina Hannie Crawford-B. MO
    G-GF:John Huston Crawford-B. MO
    G-GM:Pauling “Pliny” Ann Bowen
    GG-GF – Preston H. Crawford – B. TN
    GG-GM- Edith Marsh
    GGG-GF-Johnathan Houston Crawford
    GGG-GM-Neoma “Oma” C. Smith

    Neoma was born in 1794, North Carolina and died after 1860 in Overton, TN. She never went to Oklahoma. At least one source says her parents were Wyatt Smith and Peggy Brackin(sp) Smith

  8. Lots of family folklore is mistaken, although I am always amazed how much is not. Affirmative action entirely aside, there is an element of romance to believing in Native American roots, among others. I have friends from New Jersey who claim to be part Lenape, though I wouldn’t bet a nickel on it.

    Sounds like the point of contention is on the Crawford line, but there appears to be another generation worth of documentation on the Clark line, here, and elsewhere:

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