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The issue of Sen. Elizabeth Warren's Native American heritage has been a distraction from her first run for public office up to her current campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination. Monday, she made an effort to put it behind her.

Speaking before the Frank LaMere Native American Presidential Forum in Sioux City, Iowa, the first caucus state, the senator expressed regret over how she handled past claims to tribal heritage. The senator could have been more specific, but acknowledging mistakes and promising to learn from them is more than President Trump or most politicians ever do.

Sen. Warren has made her Native American links a key part of her Oklahoma origin story since running against incumbent Republican Sen. Scott Brown in 2012. Many of Sen. Brown's supporters took to doing the "tomahawk chop" popularized by fans of the Atlanta Braves, which probably didn't help his election chances. President Trump refers to her as "Pocahontas," which is demeaning to Native Americans and is in keeping with his mocking of the heritage of minority Americans.

Last fall, Sen. Warren tried to quiet critics by taking a DNA test, an action that the Berkshire Eagle had encouraged editorially. The test showed that she had a strong likelihood of Native American heritage, most likely eight generations ago. The revelation did not quiet critics and caused a backlash among Native Americans, with the Cherokee nation asserting that the test did not back up Ms. Warren's implications that she was a member of that nation or any other tribal nation. This was presumably what she was referring to at the forum Monday when she acknowledged "mistakes" and said "I am sorry for harm I have caused." The senator has also been accused of leveraging her Native American ancestry to benefit her educational career and gain employment benefits, but an exhaustive analysis by The Boston Globe debunked these claims.

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Sen. Warren's appearance Tuesday came as she continues her rise in the polls, running even with long-time Democratic front-runner Joe Biden in a couple of surveys. She and her advisers evidently decided that this was a good time to clear the air on the persistent Native American controversy. It will have no impact upon the president and Sen. Warren's harshest critics but it may have an impact on voters concerned about the domestic issues that the senator focuses upon and who are weary of the Native American brouhaha.

The latest of the many comprehensively detailed platforms that make the Democrat unique compared to most of her rivals came Friday in the form of a 9,000-word opus on Native American issues. It addresses in detail a variety of subjects, among them violence against indigenous women, outdated treaties, unfair banking regulations and educational and economic shortcomings on tribal reservations. This is probably the best way for her to make amends to any Native Americans upset by her past claims. Should the president and her critics continue to mock her — and by extension indigenous people — Native Americans and tribal leaders should consider who their real enemy is.

-- The Brattleboro (Vermont) Reformer

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