At a January campaign rally, Republican Senate candidate Herschel Walker confounded his audience when he announced that his mother had just informed him that he is “40 percent Native American.” This revelation was a surprise to all listening—including his mother.
Walker has repeated his claims at four separate campaign events. Following the January event, Walker said in May that his mother is "a big part Native American," once again alleging that he had just recently learned the information.
At another, he repeated the information and referred to himself and his mother as "other." At the third, he claimed he is "proud to be Black but ... may not be Black." He parroted the information at the fourth, saying again that he only then learned of his heritage.
At a September 28 event in Forsyth, Georgia, Walker referred to himself as a "super mutt."
He told the audience: “My mom just told me that my mom, grandmother, was full-blood Cherokee. So I’m Native American! ... I’m a super mutt. I don’t know what I am, but this was so funny. This was so funny. I said, ‘Mom, why you never said anything to us?’ She said, ‘Back in my days, a lot of the Native Americans were treated worse than Blacks.’”
While Walker claimed to have done a 23 and Me Ancestry test that confirmed his heritage, the largest tribal government in the U.S., Cherokee Nation, told the Huffpost that there is no record of Walker in its database of 360,000 citizens.
“There is no one listed in Cherokee Nation’s Registration database with that name and birthdate,” said the tribe’s spokesperson.
When Walker's campaign declined to respond to requests for information on his grandmother that could be verified with Cherokee Nation, the next-closest source came forward—Walker's mother.
While Christine Walker shared she grew up with stories of her grandmother— Herschel Walker's great-grandmother being "kin" to the tribe— she did not know how she was related to the Cherokee people.
“I don’t know how far back. See, my grandmother, she passed when I was quite young. I don’t know too much about how she was connected," she told Huffpost.
Many Americans believe themselves to have Native American lineage despite having no ancestors that directly suggest it, a trend Slate explains as “shifting one’s identity to claim ownership of an imagined Cherokee past is at once a way to authenticate your American-ness and absolve yourself of complicity in the crimes Americans committed against the tribe across history.”
When Senator Elizabeth Warren claimed to have Native heritage, then subsequently learned otherwise and released the DNA tests proving her error, Republicans lambasted her for years after. Former President Donald Trump repeatedly mocked her by calling her "Pocahontas."
“Forget about this color thing and get back to the right thing: America,” Walker said at a May campaign rally, directly after announcing his supposed heritage. “The people that represent America.”
Cherokee Nation has not commented on Walker's claims. Walker's campaign has yet to respond to his mother's information.