The Boston Herald has a humdinger of a story this morning on how Massachusetts senate candidate Elizabeth Warren was touted as being Native American back in the '90s when Harvard Law School came under fire for not having a single minority female professor. The Herald asked for confirmation that she has Cherokee and Delaware Indian blood as was claimed at the time, but so far the campaign is reduced to claiming that Warren knows about her ethnic heritage solely from "family lore."
I find this all a tad amusing because, as I recount over at The Weekly Standard, I once wrote about ethnic fraud on college campuses where it can be quite advantageous to have minority status. In particular, I made a point of showing how easily fraudulent claims about ethnicity can be made:
I marched into the registrar's office and asked to change the ethnicity on my transcript. The clerk didn't bat an eye. She actually asked me, "What would you like it to be?" I told her Native American. Then she threw me for a loop. She asked what tribe. As I scrambled to remember what tribes were in the area, I remembered some family lore about my great-grandfather. One winter about a century ago, a band of Shoshone Indians were passing through and asked if they could camp out on my great-grandfather's ranch (my family owned much of the land that's now Castle Rock state park in Idaho). The Shoshone returned to the ranch the following year to give my great-grandfather a pair of impressively beaded leather gloves to thank him for his hospitality. My grandmother had them mounted and framed. They're hanging on the wall in my parents house.
In any event, I imagine this bit of family lore gives me a bigger claim to being a Shoshone Indian than a lot of people who think they're of Native American descent. If you were to pull my college transcript today, I believe it will still reflect that I'm Shoshone. I'm not, but I hope some vestigial familial respect allows any members of that proud tribe to forgive me for claiming to be among them.
Obviously, there's more illuminating context if you read the whole piece.