Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., will return to Oklahoma City on Sunday, where she will meet with Native American groups as part of a reported effort to blunt continuing criticism over her past claims to have Native American heritage.
The 2020 hopeful, who was born in the city, will meet privately with tribal leaders — where representatives from all of the approximately 40 federally recognized tribes in the state have been invited for the Sunday morning meeting, according to the Washington Post. Later in the day she will hold a town hall meeting.
The meeting will reportedly focus on Warren’s agenda for the community and is also part of an effort to blunt the criticism she has faced for allegedly appropriating Native American culture.
“Elizabeth is looking forward to meeting with tribal leaders to discuss ways they can continue to work together on many important issues facing Indian Country. She believes in working on a Nation-to-Nation basis to uphold the United States’ solemn trust and treaty obligations to Tribal Nations and to build a brighter future for Indian Country,” a Warren spokeswoman told the outlet.
Warren infuriated Native American leaders last year when she released a DNA test that she said proved her past claims that she has Native American heritage. That claim had been mocked for years by conservatives, and particularly President Trump — who has repeatedly nicknamed her “Pocahontas.”
“Crazy Pocahontas goes to the middle of Central Park, or whatever park, she’s in Manhattan… I mean, I could have Barron Trump go into Central Park and he’d get a crowd that would be just as big,” Trump told a rally in Michigan this week. “He’s 13! He’d get a bigger crowd!”
While she initially hailed the DNA test triumphantly as debunking that criticism from conservatives, within weeks she was apologizing to tribal leaders, who said that tribal identity was not dictated by DNA. The campaign has sought to tackle and debunk claims that she gained, or tried to gain, an advantage in her career by claiming to be a member of a minority.
Should she win the Democratic presidential nomination, the Trump campaign will likely push to keep the Native American controversy in the news — and use it to allege that Warren cannot be trusted. Having Native American groups behind her will help Warren push back against such an attack.
The trip to Oklahoma is an important one for Warren, who has made her origin story a key part of her campaign narrative. She regularly tells the story of how, after her father’s heart attack, her mother got her first job at 50 in Sears for minimum wage so the family wouldn’t lose their house.
Warren has remained near the top of the polls since announcing her candidacy but in recent months has struggled as her Medicare-for-all plan came under withering criticism from both Republicans and Democrats, particularly over its cost.
A Fox News poll published this week showed Warren moving from second to third in the Democratic presidential primary race. She was the favorite of 13 percent of primary voters, compared to Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., in second place with 20 percent and former Vice President Joe Biden with 30 percent.