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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Even unto the 10th generation (depending on what the meaning of ‘is’ is)

Elizabeth Warren helped her academic career by claiming benefits available to members of a minority group – in her case, native american. Later it turned out she had no evidence of this. One of her ancestors was a soldier who guarded native americans on the ‘trail of tears’ but there was no traceable first nations ancestry – just (she said) a family legend.

Some people suggested it was fraud and hypocrisy to take minority benefits when you had no evidence you were one. And Donald Trump said he’d pay $1 million to any charity she chose if she could show she was.

Now she has taken a DNA test. As she supported the recounts in some states after he won, so likewise I would not in the least blame him for demanding a confirming second test supervised by agreed experts. Let us assume, however, for the sake of argument, that, just as those recounts did not change the outcome, so a second test gives either

a) a minimally-similar result: Senator Warren has a single tenth generation native american ancestor


b) an even better result: suppose, for example, that a more detailed check shows she has a single fifth-generation native american ancestor

Two questions arise.

The first, as a man once said, depends upon what the meaning of ‘is’ is. For the purpose of claiming minority benefits and status in today’s identity culture, does being a minority extend unto the fifth generation? How about unto the tenth generation? (And if, as the NYT reported in 2014, the average european american is 0.18% native american, are they all entitled to these benefits?)

The second is: did Trump just win a bet or lose it? I guess that would depend on what exactly he said and whether he later clarified it. If he said ‘any’ amerindian ancestry, I think he just lost. If he said ‘is’ amerindian, I think he just won. If he’d ever clarified it to, “Has a proportion of native american descent that is at least a full standard deviation’s worth above the mean for the US population” – then I’d think he (was being advised by a statistician and) may have won, but if he’d said “mode” instead of “mean”, could Warren’s charity be in with a chance? Should Trump pay a percentage of $1 million equal to her percentage of first-nations ancestry – or that percentage divided by the percentage that US universities typically demand when handing out minority benefits?

In this time of polarisation, I’d like to think at least a political bet could be settled. It would be a pity if, unlike presidential elections in the US constitution, this one proves not to have been well-enough defined beforehand.

The NYT article was about the difficulty the old south had defining exactly who was black and who was not. Everything old is new again.

38 comments to Even unto the 10th generation (depending on what the meaning of ‘is’ is)

  • It’s not just the old south. SJWs were kicking up a fuss recently about how Dwayne Johnson shouldn’t be allowed to play a black character in a movie because he wasn’t black enough (he apparently has more black ancestors than what the old south considered enough to make someone black).

  • Ferox

    I like Trump … he is the first real fist-fightin’ commonsense anti-SJW politico we have had in a long long time.

    BUT – can anyone, even Trump’s most ardent and love-struck supporters, imagine him saying something like “Has a proportion of native american descent that is at least a full standard deviation’s worth above the mean for the US population” ???

    I could more easily imagine Mike Tyson saying it 🙂

  • Ken Hagler (2018/10/15 at 6:24 pm), I take your point as regards general SJW phoniness but as regards the bet, I would defend Warren’s right to be judged by the proportion typically expected in US universities when she claimed her benefits, not the perhaps more strident demands of Hollywood today. If Dwayne Johnson is black enough to have claimed AA benefit at Warren’s university in the 90s, he is black enough for my purposes – but too black for Warren’s IIUC.

  • Phil B

    According to the Boston Globe, her ancestry is 1/1024th Native American:


    So that’s a good deal less than the 0.18% of the average American …

  • Junican

    If it turned out that she had only a trace of American Indian in her ancestry, I should imagine that Trump would raise merry hell about how she managed to claim benefits.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Junican: “American Indian.” Very good. :>)))

    Assuming she was born here, she is certainly “native American” by law, unless her parents were here as part of a diplomatic mission or some such.

    If the NYT were correct, it would mean that 99.82% of Americans are first-generation immigrants.

    The Times needs to learn to use words to mean what they say. (Although such a policy would get in the way of its politics. And if it doesn’t want to be SNARKed at, it should learn English — among other things.)


    Niall, it is excellent to consider the implications of various small distinctions in the meanings of words. You are da bomb! :>))))

    . . .

    All: Can anyone give me a link to a recording or an accurate transcription of Pres. Clinton’s testimony in which he states “it depends on what the meaning of ‘is’ is”? Everyone has made fun of this for so long, but even such a qualifying statement may be correct. So I would like to hear or read it in context.

    I ask out of intellectual interest only. Not a big WJC fan. *g*

  • bobby b

    It gets better.

    The test used proxies for AmIndian DNA, because there’s not enough AmIndian DNA in the database he used. Due to a paucity of AmIndian DNA for comparison purposes, the Stanford professor who performed the analysis for Warren decided to use the DNA of Mexicans, Peruvians, and Colombians INSTEAD OF DNA from AmIndians.

    From the Boston Globe:

    “Detecting DNA for Native Americans is particularly tricky because there is an absence of Native American DNA available for comparison. This is in part because Native American leaders have asked tribal members not to participate in genetic databases.

    “The tribes have felt they have been exploited,” explained Lawrence Brody, a senior investigator with the Medical Genomics and Metabolic Genetics Branch at the National Institutes of Health. “The amount of genetic data that is available from Native Americans is sparse.”

    To make up for the dearth of Native American DNA, Bustamante used samples from Mexico, Peru, and Colombia to stand in for Native American. That’s because scientists believe that the groups Americans refer to as Native American came to this land via the Bering Strait about 12,000 years ago and settled in what’s now America but also migrated further south. His report explained that the use of reference populations whose genetic material has been fully sequenced was designed “for maximal accuracy.”

    So, he proved she has a vanishingly small part of Mexican, Peruvian, or Colombian heritage, NOT AmIndian heritage.

  • Apparently the test shows that she *may* be 1024th Native American. That’s 0.0009765625%. If anyone thinks that’s going to cut the mustard as Native American then they’ve got rocks in their head.

    Also, the test was actually for Colombian, Mexican and Peruvian DNA, not Native American, so in fact it proves absolutely zilch.

    Finally, the average white American scores 0.18% on tests for this sort of DNA. So that seems to make her the whitest person in the country.

    (If she wanted to take the bet in a serious way she needed to clarify the terms with Trump beforehand.)

  • Mr Ed

    Apparently the test shows that she *may* be 1024th Native American. That’s 0.0009765625%

    Er. That’s 0.09765625%, or so, as the ‘%’ indicates a 100-fold reduction. But my main point is, some shameful people might say that’s enough undocumented background to chuck her over the (unbuilt) Wall.

  • Yes, the percentage is 0.09765625, my mistake. Still a tiny amount. Less than one tenth of a percent.

    To be fair to her, that’s the minimum she may be. The maximum she could be is apparently 1/64, which is a whopping… 1.5%.

    Minimum and maxiumum what, though, you may ask, seeing as the DNA didn’t specifically test Native American DNA.

    Also, she still doesn’t pass the Cherokee’s own criteria for being a Cherokee. And the Cherokees have issued a press release to say this is all a load of rubbish (they say this sort of DNA testing doesn’t really show much):

    I wonder if the media are going to attack them? Who gets priority here in the identity politics world?

  • Julie near Chicago

    Ferox, you lovely person! May I peel you a grape? 😀

  • Julie near Chicago


    The prisoner in the dock hangs her head in shame and confesses to outright theft.

    I posted your comment in toto (but with attribution) at



  • bobby b

    Julie, so long as you forward to me all monies you might be paid as a result of your thenewneo post, I’m happy!

    (I like that site too.)

  • Julie near Chicago


  • Fraser Orr

    I’d just like to point out that my ancestors came from Africa about one million years ago. So does that make me an African American? Come to that, I have some Neanderthal DNA too, so perhaps I should have a special category for that. Unfortunately, you can take it too far. I also have a considerable amount of DNA shared with a turnip, and unfortunately, in this country we still enslave turnips, kill them mercilessly, with a total disregard for their right to control their own bodies. So, lest I be labelled a Turnip-American with all the menacing threats that come with such a designation, I think I’ll just keep my head down and accept my position as a white-as-a-milk-bottle-American.

  • Nicholas (Unlicensed Joker) Gray

    Here in Australia, a Senator moved a motion that “I’ts o.k. to be white.” Most of out pollies are doing their best to get as far as they can from such abhorrent motions! But a few years ago, we had “Black is beautiful”. Go figure.

  • Mr Ed


    Fractioning up DNA per nth-grandparent eventually becomes a nonsense due to the way DNA behaves as it recombines over generations. There may be individual alleles that stand out (usually deleterious ones, sadly) from distant ancestors, but as diploid eukaryotes, with meiosis, we get our DNA as a jumble from our distant ancestors, which helps to provide variety and variability, all part of the process that helps to keep the species going in the biological, rather than economic, arena.

    As for the Cherokee, they are to be ignored as they don’t serve the narrative, before which all are disposable, but perhaps Fauxahontas has edged herself towards obscurity with her self-obsession, making the Cause look rather silly, even by its own undemanding standards, at a crucial point in building the narrative.

  • Mr Ed

    Just saw this on Breitbart from a Jimi Headstone: 🙂

    So lets review today’s findings.

    Liz Warren took a DNA test and is 1/1,024th American Indian,.

    Maxine Waters took an IQ test and has an IQ of 1/1,024th of an IQ point.

    Stormy Daniels took a virginity test and is 1/1,024 virgin.

    And Hillary Clinton has 1/1,024 brain cells left and still believes Bill did nothing wrong

  • I sneeze in threes

    If she is a tiny bit Colombian, Mexican and Peruvian will this provide Trump with the incentive to build a tiny wall?

  • bobby b

    BTW, if anyone is wondering why this is so worthy of attention (who is this person and why do we care if she’s an AmIndian?):

    – Ms. Warren, by writing a long and in-depth government report that “proved” that 62% of USA personal bankruptcies were caused by medical bills, paved the way for Obamacare. Her study was one of the main points used to justify our move in the direction of single-payer – it actually would have been more accurate to call it WarrenCare. Turns out, she lied in that report, hugely. She took every bankruptcy filing that included ANY medical bills (down to $10 bills) and then labeled those filings as having been caused by the medical bills. But she fought turning over data, until after the Obamacare voting was done.

    – This Twitchy page gives a very good listing of the many times she claimed AmIndian heritage to her own profit.

  • Ferox (October 15, 2018 at 6:26 pm), you are of course quite right that Trump is unlikely to have expressed himself in any of the more precise statistical ways I used to explore my post’s hypothesis. However I can imagine Trump offering to pay a million dollars if Senator Warren had

    a) a single drop of amerindian blood


    b) a single teaspoonful of amerindian blood

    We may plausibly guestimate she has 8 imperial pints (~ 4.5 litres) of blood in her body, and so a 1/1024 fraction means that some 4 millilitres of it might be amerindian (subject to a confirming test that replaced the proxies with actual references, etc.). A typical medicine bottle defines the most minimal ‘one teaspoon’ dose as 5 millilitres, but 4 millilitres is certainly enough for ‘a drop’ in common parlance – perhaps enough for two drops, or three small drops. So it could, in theory, all depend on how exactly Trump phrased it. 🙂

  • Till now, I have deliberately avoided going near the issue of what Trump actually said, because it was such fun to analyse cases and because the issue of using bets to defuse politics (e.g. to close late night arguments at parties and similar) is one I have thought on in the past.

    Just for the record, Ann Althouse discusses it here. I agree with her conclusion that both legally and colloquially Trump is quite safe from having to pay out.

    I note with some interest that his phrasing both sets a high standard for her to meet (much higher than ‘drop’ or ‘teaspoon’) and ensures he has control over the circumstances of the test – two points that struck me as soon as Warren made her claim yesterday. Is this an accident or is Trump more cautious than his remarks are intended to seem?

  • Jacob

    Did anyone notice how ridiculous and RACIST the whole issue is?
    Did anyone notice how ridiculous and RACIST is the admission policy of the universities?

    Or, are we so immersed in this shit that we don’t get the ridiculousness of it?

    Can anyone maintain in good faith that most of the fine (liberal) American people are not batshit-crazy?

  • Rob

    Who gets priority here in the identity politics world?

    The Democrat politician.

  • Dr Evil

    What about self-Identification in these fluidic times? I am Black Eagle and I claim my 10 million dollar bursary. How!

  • Agammamon

    first-nations ancestry

    *Technically*, unless she’s got ancestry from one of the Canadian Native American tribes, she’s got no ‘First Nations’ ancestry at all. That’s a Canadian term here and no one from the US, south uses it. She could be 100% NA and still not be First Nations.

  • George Atkisson

    Jacob –

    You are quite right. We have gone quite Chiroptera Feces insane over here. Having lost both Congress and the Presidency, the Democrats and their slave media are acting like a 3 year old who’s had his toys taken away. It will be even worse after next month’s elections. They had a significant lead in the polls until the Kavanaugh hearings put their insanity on public display. Now the Republicans have a slight lead. It’s not going to be pretty after the results are in.

  • Runcie Balspune

    For the purpose of claiming minority benefits and status in today’s identity culture, does being a minority extend unto the fifth generation?



  • K

    Trump just used twitter to destroy one of the top contenders for his job in 2020. After the results were in, she had a twitter meltdown. The fact that she decided to get the test in the first place was on Trump and it worked out perfectly for him. There won’t be a second test and unless the Democratic party is more dysfunctional than I think, the Democrats won’t support her if she wants to run. Although right now, the American left is flailing so anything may be possible.

  • TheHat

    There are standards having to do with Native American heritage. My dad told us kids that we were of Dutch ancestry and entitled to a fortune owed us my the invading English. And that my great great great grandmother would go down to St Patricks Cathedral on Christmas eve and kick the door and call the English all sorts of nasty names. It was a bed time story of no real value other than it was fun to hear and tell. All that said, I grew up in Pennsylvania and was an aspiring college student. I was poor so I checked out a rumor that, if I were a Native America or had sufficient Native American blood, I could go to a Pennsylvania state college for free. Turns out I’m not Native America. And I paid (in full) for my education. Point being, all across America there are states offering college assistance to Native Americans. It’s been 50+ years since that time so memory of the details is long gone. But. A quick check on the internet shows that those standards still exist. (Here is one I found in 30 seconds. https://nativeyouth2college.org/resources/u-s-colleges-and-universities-offering-in-state-tuition-and-tuition-waivers-for-native-american-students/) Just scanning a few of the standards for several of the states and it’s clear that Elizabeth has been giving us a bed time story.

  • My dad told us kids that we were of Dutch ancestry and entitled to a fortune owed us by the invading English.

    The Dutch settlement of Manhattan was indeed conquered by the Duke of York back in the 17th century and became New York but IIUC the Dutch families there typically stayed, retained their private property, intermarried with the English and are at the root of some of the longest US genealogies. The government of Holland lost what the government of Britain won, but I think your father’s ‘owed a fortune bit’ may have been ‘remembering with advantages’ at the family level. 🙂 (But I would defer to specific historical info from the time. For example, a Manhattan family that owned a ship in the colony might well have had to buy it back in the prize court.)

  • I sneeze in threes


  • mhj

    What Trump actually said was that if he ran against her for President, in their debate he would toss her a genetic testing kit and make that $1M challenge–none of which has happened. Figures he wouldn’t risk $1M unless it was meaningful, as in he is actually running against her.

    He just keeps showing how stupid his opponents are, it is really cosmic (and, comic).

    Anyway, her native ancestry is on a par with or even less than the average for all Americans of predominantly European ancestry, and her geneticist had to include Mexican and other Latin American genetic types because there are not enough North American ones in his database for statistical reliability so we don’t even know if he is matching a North Am tribe or a mestizo. He did confirm she has more Native American (including Latin American) ancestry than typical inhabitants of the UK, though.

    Read the report, it’s on the internet and is only 6pp long. In a sane world, none of this should matter, anyway, but the racists keep dragging us down. Interesting how the Left says sex, which anyone with a brain knows is essentially binary, is a social construction, but race, which is extremely complicated and subject to infinite gradations, is binary and obvious. They are all such liars.

  • Mikesixes

    Warren is a lawyer, so she should appreciate Trump’s framing of the “bet”. Here’s what he said:
    “But let’s say I’m debating Pocahontas. I promise you I’ll do this: I will take, you know those little kits they sell on television… learn your heritage!… And in the middle of the debate, when she proclaims that she is of Indian heritage because her mother said she has high cheek bones. That’s her only evidence, her mother said we have high cheek bones… ”
    So he conditioned the bet on these factors:
    He’s actually in a debate with her when she proclaims that she is of Indian heritage
    He gives her, at that very moment, a DNA testing kit
    The results from the test kit he gave her show that she is in fact an Indian.
    The conditions have not been met. Even if Warren could produce incontrovertible evidence that she is a full-blooded Cherokee Trump would not owe her anything, because she did not make the claim in a debate with him and did not take a test that he provided at that debate.

  • Paul Marks

    Senator Warren was, only a few years ago, still giving interviews claiming that one of her parents was so Indian that her parents “basically had to elope” (because of racial hatred). Warren based her academic career on BULLSHIT stories of being a Cherokee. And the media are still covering for her – the BBC are still claiming that President Trump “mocked her ancestry” (he did NOT – he mocked her LIES), and the BBC and the rest of the media are still claiming that Warren never claimed to be a Cherokee – yes-she-did (indeed she got academic jobs on this basis), and the Cherokee Tribal Council is not happy with her, not happy at all.

    As for giving people highly paid academic jobs (where they can spout their FASCIST ideas about business enterprises have their first obligation to “the community” not to the owners of the business – for Elizabeth Warren’s economic policy ideas are straight from MUSSOLINI and his FASCISM) on the basis of their ethnic origin – if I have to explain why that is wrong I-give-up.

    So here we have it – Elizbeth Warren, a person who based her academic career not on talent but on her ethnic origin – and turns out to have been LYING about that ethnic origin (although the media are still covering for the liar Elizabeth Warren). And what does her “academic work” consist of? It consists of repackaging the economic ideas of Mussolini and his FASCIST movement – and selling these FASCIST ideas as “liberalism”, with the support of the utterly degenerate “mainstream media”.

  • Exasperated

    From the Althouse blog: Pocahonky Stolen Pallor

    I am baffled; I don’t know why she just didn’t acknowledge the results and do a mea culpa for believing family lore.
    What I have noticed is how many questions have been conflated.
    Does she have DNA unique to the Americas? I say yes, but I’m taking my cue from Razib Khan.
    Also, I don’t understand the people claiming that it is only 1/1024. Everything, I’ve read says 1/64 (6th gens, .015 or 1.5%) to 1/1024 (10 gens, .00097 or .097%); both are equally likely. The most likely is 1/256 (8 generations, .0039 or .4%). The average European American is .18% or .0018).
    Did she make up this heritage out of whole cloth? No, I think there was family lore, not unusual given Oklahoma.
    Did she exaggerate this heritage? Yes Intentionally? Probably
    Did she knowingly exploit this belief and profit from it? Yes
    Whatever the individual tribal criteria are, it’s not relevant to whether or not she lied about having a Native American ancestor.

  • SkippyTony

    Ok, let’s get out the popcorn. If, as I understand they are, the “acknowledged authorities “ of the Cherokee tribe are rejecting her claim to kinship, but she still self identifies as Cherokee, how can this be resolved without torpedoing the whole self identification scam? If, at law, her self identification “trumps” then just about everyone can be anything and entitled to the related special privileges. In NZ where I live Maori Tribal affiliation is a gold pass, free education, preferred employment, taxpayer funded tribal settlements etc etc. if, on the other hand, the Cherokee get to decide who is and who is not a Cherokee, and they nix her application, has she been obtaining advantage by deception? I understand motive is irrelevant at law, so my saying I believe my grandparents owned Manhattan island is unlikely to get very far at law, no matter how strongly I believe this to be true.