But as Ms. Warren inches closer to a presidential run, even critics of her decision to take the DNA test believe she is well positioned to shore up support. In the past week she has received heaps of praise for a foreign policy speech at American University, and she remains one of the party’s top fund-raisers and surrogates.
Allies in Boston pointed out that, in Ms. Warren’s recent re-election effort in Massachusetts, there was no evidence that the DNA announcement hurt her standing among voters. Those close to Ms. Warren also note they had several allies in the progressive and Native American communities who supported their decision from the outset.
Deb Haaland, the newly elected House member from New Mexico who will be one of the first Native American women to serve in Congress, said she believed the senator was seeking to learn more about her past. Other tribal leaders, including those from the Lenape Indian Tribe in Delaware and the Eastern Band of Cherokee in North Carolina, have also supported Ms. Warren’s decision. Ms. Warren’s DNA test, which was conducted by the renowned geneticist Carlos Bustamante and released by her office, showed strong evidence that Ms. Warren has Native American pedigree “6-10 generations ago.”
“I absolutely respect tribes’ authority to determine who are tribal members,” Ms. Haaland said. “But I don’t think that’s what Elizabeth Warren was doing. She was merely looking to find a connection to her past and that’s exactly what she did.”
This is not a view universally shared. The Cherokee Nation declined repeated requests for comment, but in a previous statement, tribal leaders said Ms. Warren’s decision dishonored “legitimate tribal governments and their citizens, whose ancestors are well documented and whose heritage is proven.”
Ian Haney López, the law and racial justice professor at the University of California, Berkeley, said Ms. Warren made a “naïve” error by not seeming to grasp the attack strategy of conservatives. Just as Mr. Trump used his so-called “birther” campaign to depict former President Barack Obama as a foreign-born immigrant, Mr. Trump was not seeking to make a factual claim against Ms. Warren but to brand her as an outsider, Mr. López said.
Twila Barnes, a Cherokee genealogist who has thoroughly tracked Ms. Warren’s claims of native ancestry since it became national news in 2012, said her “jaw was on the floor” when she saw Ms. Warren’s decision to take the DNA test, and the slick video that accompanied the announcement of the results.