Wednesday, August 29, 2007

On Ward Churchill

The following is a reply that I sent to an individual who I regularly debate concerning Ward Churchill.

To **

In an earlier posting I described Ward Churchill as a pseudo native, an intellectual charlatan and an individual who lacks academic integrity. I believe all of these descriptions to be accurate and his dismissal warranted. This is not to say that I disagree with all that Churchill necessarily has to say (a topic for a later discussion) – I have read two of his books From a Native Son and A Little Matter of Genocide as well as several of his essays – but there are greater issues at hand here that we as educators cannot afford to ignore.

False claims of Aboriginal Descent (Pseudo Native)

Churchill has claimed on several occasions that he is an American Indian. He has used such an identity to advance the position that he is an authentic and genuine voice of the indigineous people of North American However the man is a fraud. He has at various times claimed to be Creek, Cherokee and even Metis sometimes changing the percentage makeup of each.

A research into Churchill’s background revealed the following:

As Churchill has lurched through Indian identities, he has not found a single Native relative or ancestor. He is descended from a long line of Churchill’s that Hank Adams has traced back to the Revolutionary War and Europe. Adams, who is Assiniboine-Sioux and a member of the Frank's Landing Indian Community, has successfully researched and exposed other pseudo-Indians. Adams traced Churchill's ancestors on both sides of his family, finding all white people, including documented slave owners and at least one spy, but zero Indians.

The above excerpt is taken from Suzan Showan Harajo’s Why Native identity matters: A cautionary tale

For more on Churchill’s heritage read

Churchill also claimed enrollment in the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians. The band had this to say:

Ward Churchill received an "Associate Membership" from the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians in Oklahoma (UKB) council in May, 1994. He was not eligible for tribal membership due to the fact that he does not possess a “Certificate of Degree of Indian Blood” (CDIB) which is under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Interior / Bureau of Indian Affairs. Because Mr. Churchill had genealogical information regarding his alleged ancestry, and his willingness to assist the UKB in promoting the tribe and its causes, he was awarded an ‘Associate Membership’ as an honor.

Churchill still continues to claim that he is a bona fida Band member. Associate Membership does not imply Native background – Bill Clinton was an associate member of the Band as well.

Why is this important? Because as an aboriginal person Churchill greatly benefited from an affirmative action program. He was hired as an assistant professor despite the fact that he has no Ph.D, and was granted tenure the following year. His fast tracking through the Ethnic Studies Department (not normal policy at the U of Colorado) was largely based on his experience speaking as a NATIVE.

Intellectual Charlatan/Lack of Academic Integrity

Ward Churchill was not only guilty of plagiarism and poor citations but also of FABRICATIONS and FALSIFICATIONS.

See Smallpox Blanket Genocide: "Did the U.S. Army Distribute Smallpox Blankets to Indians? Fabrication and Falsification in Ward Churchill’s Genocide Rhetoric by Thomas Brown

See General Allotment Act:

Churchill also plagarized the writings of three authors Fay Cohen, Annette James (his ex-wife) and Rebecca Robins.

Now as a supporter of free speech I would not fire Churchill based on his Little Eichmann’s comment (even though it was completely uncalled for and callous in every sense) nor would I dismiss him based on the fact that he turns his classrooms into a forum for spewing his own ideology (a fact that he admits to and that I personally detest) but the lack of academic integrity shown above makes dismissal the logical decision.

This is not a case of free speech this is an issue of protecting academic standards. If we don’t protect academic standards why bother having universities in the first place?My position is very much consistent with a Classical Liberal Viewpoint and I believe it to be reasonable.

Thanks Gavin
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