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Tipsheet

Alito Channels Elizabeth Warren During Oral Arguments: 'I Identify As American Indian'

Erin Schaff/The New York Times via AP, Pool

During oral arguments in two cases involving Harvard University and the University of North Carolina, Justice Samuel Alito joined other conservatives on the bench to cast doubt on allowing the consideration of race in college and university admissions decisions.

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In one exchange, Alito wondered what metrics were used for determining heritage. 

“We rely on self-reporting,” said North Carolina Solicitor General Ryan Park, who is defending affirmative action policies at UNC. 

"One great-grandparent," Alito said. "Are you going to make me continue to go on?"

"Right, I think that as we go on, I agree that it would seem less plausible that that person would feel that this is actually capturing my true racial identity," Park responded. 

Alito then appeared to refer to Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s claim of a Native American heritage. 

"It's family lore that we have an ancestor who was an American Indian," Alito said.

"I think in that particular circumstance, it would be not accurate for them to say..." Park said.

"I identify as American Indian because I've always been told that some ancestor back in the old days was an American Indian," Alito countered.

“Yeah, so I think in that circumstance it would be very unlikely that that person was telling the truth, and this seems true for, we rely on self reporting for all the other demographics and characteristics that we asked for and there’s nothing special about the racial identification on that score," Park acknowledged. 

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In 2019, Warren apologized for identifying as a Native American for nearly two decades following a DNA test that showed only trace amounts of Native American ancestry. 

This came long after she wrote "American Indian" on a registration card for the State Bar of Texas and was listed as a minority in the law school directory at Harvard, claiming that it was done "in the hopes that it might mean that I would be invited to a luncheon, a group something that might happen with people who are like I am." When asked for evidence during the saga, Warren pointed to her papaw's "high cheekbones" and a family cookbook called "Pow Wow Chow."


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