#93: Polly-tix-ical Pow Wow

Dear Stolf: Now that Elizabeth “Fauxcahontus” Warren has dislodged Scott Brown from the Teddy Kennedy Senate seat in Taxachusetts…what’s the dang deal? Is she an Indian or isn’t she? …from Princess Fryingpanbottlewasher, in Pioneer Village

93.1  Dear Prinny: Colorful, the way you put it…very colorful. BTW, I remember you from the Howdy Doody show, as the rival of Princess Summerfallwinterspring. Say hello to Dandy Doody and Elephant Bob for me. But for those of you who missed all the hubbub, Bub, here’s a thumbnail sketch…

93.2  Elizabeth “Betsy” Herring was born in Oklahoma City in 1949. Growing up, and all thru grade school and high school, she was white. At college and law school, she was white. As a law professor at various institutions, thru the 70s and 80s, she was white. Then from 1985-1996, we was listed as Native American in various professorial directories. The Spring 1993 Harvard’s Women’s Law Journal went so far as to include her in a list of “women of color.” As late as 1996, a Harvard Law School spokesman was quoted as saying that their faculty of 71 included several blacks and Hispanics, 11 women, and one Native American…her. The Harvard Crimson touted her as the first minority woman to receive tenure there…altho today, all parties concerned say her purported ethnicity played no part in her initial employment and subsequent advancement. At some point thereafter, she went back to being white, and is to this day.

93.3  The obvious question is: how can this happen? Her political opponents branded her a bald-faced liar, who used her supposed heritage to further her academic career. Warren has admitted that there is no documentation as to her Indian roots…it was just “family history” that was told to her as she was growing up. The story was that grandpa Harry Reed and grandma Hannie Crawford had Delaware and Cherokee blood respectively…and this was such a bone of contention in their families that they had to elope to get hitched.

93.4  Chart 332 is her family tree. One Cherokee genealogist says that no-one in this tree was ever listed on any Federal census as anything but white…and none appears on any Tribal roll. That’s pretty much what “no documentation” means, you see. For herself, Warren has provided very few specifics…how much, if any, Indian blood did her grandparents pass on to her? I get the feeling even she doesn’t really know, “high cheek-bones” or no. She defended her listing as a minority as her wanting to “connect with people for whom this heritage is part of their hearts.”

93.5  And in the interest of full disclosure, I am one of those people. But then, a lot of us are. Growing up, there was talk from my French Canadian maternal grandfather that there was “an Indian in the family.” The likely candidate is his paternal grandmother’s father…that would be my 3G grandfather, giving me a 1/32 share, far too little to be granted official tribal membership. But so far no confirmation, no documentation…sadly, not even a name, as my grandfather’s grandmother’s birth is recorded as “illegitimate”…father unknown.

93.6  But to answer your question, I judge this whole deal to be a proverbial tempest in a teapot. What Brown’s camp called a “lie” was really just an exaggeration, pretty much what you’d expect in those first giddy days of the diversity fad. Yes, an exaggeration…I mean, my grandparents were born in Italy, Poland, and Quebec…yet I cannot say I am an Italian, a Pole, a French Canadian…nor certainly an Indian. I am an American, simply that…I was born here, what can I say? I have multi-ethnic heritage…but short of saying “Sure I cry at weddings, all Italian men do,” that’s as far as it can reasonably go.

93.7  The trouble is that the concept of “lying” has been dumbed down to the point where almost anything can be called that. For example, you state that you never took piano lessons. Then you later remember that for several months in the 3rd grade…50 years ago mind you…you did, but hated practicing so much your parents let you stop. So what you said at first was a “lie,” right? No, not right. Like I said, mountain out of a molehill.

93.8  But before we leave this, I’d like to make 2 comments about Chart 332. When the controversy first erupted in April of this year, the New England Historic [sic] Genealogical Society announced at least one instance of possible documentation, altho they later backtracked, since no actual document ever turned up. It was a supposed marriage application on which one William J. Crawford stated that his mother was a Cherokee. On Chart 332, he would be the younger brother of Preston H. Crawford…and it is interesting to note that at that time, the early 1800s, and depending on the prevailing local attitudes, it was not uncommon for someone to claim Indian heritage as a cover for what was actually black ancestry. I’m just sayin’…”of color,” get it?

93.9  And from a purely genealogical standpoint, an interesting article was written by Sally Jacobs in the Boston Globe in September…here. Among professional…and serious amateur…genealogists, the danger of substituting “family lore” for actual documentation is well known and warned against. And this article is from the angle of what other relatives knew or thought they did. But what I especially liked was that Ms. Jacobs got all the kinship connections correct, as far as I could tell. For example, the granddaughter of Everett Reed and Laura Crawford is called Warren’s 2nd cousin…completely correct.

93.10  She even points out, without actually using the word “double,” that the two women are more related than ordinary 2nd cousins…owing to the fact that 2 Reed brothers married 2 Crawford sisters.  Another relative, Robert C. Boraker, is called Warren’s 4th cousin since their great great grandfathers were brothers…again, precisely right. My point is, this stuff isn’t really that difficult…just a little thought, and you can’t go wrong…sez me.


93.11  The latest from the wiseGeek “Cousins” page…and the Rule of G’s

93.12  Count the G’s to determine cousins. If the numbers are the same, you are simply cousins. Same Grandparents = 1 G = 1st cousins…same Great Grandparents = 2 G’s = 2nd cousins…same Great Great Grandparents = 3 G’s = 3rd cousins, etc. If the numbers are different, the lower one indicates cousins, and the difference between the 2 numbers is the times removed. So in your case, 3 G’s versus 4 G’s…that’s 3rd cousins once removed. Next week, we’ll see if we can soft soap ya…


Copyright © 2012 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved


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