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Ward Churchill

(Picture of Ward Churchill [Satya])

You have to consider how it must have looked to the University of Colorado at Boulder Administration(CU-B -- for some reason locals call it  'CU,'  even though it is always written  'University of Colorado') back in 1997.  They were looking for an academic bronc-buster to ride their fractious Ethic Studies department [Denver Post].  Ward Churchill looked to be the perfect man.  Part American-Indian (Creek/Cherokee {unenrolled} [Redstate]), a prolific writer and published scholar, a selling artist, he was an outspoken advocate of American-Indians, sorely bent upon seeing the wrongs of the past redressed.  He even was an ex-warrior, having served in Vietnam as a paratrooper in an elite Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol (LRRP) unit [Perspectives].   And he looked the part, tall and imposing -- his sandy-blonde hair falling in long braids.  Well, okay, with his chiseled, slightly dissipated features, he looked more like a Viking marauder than an Indian brave, but he still had the classic look of a warrior (actually, with his sun glasses on, he looked somewhat like the late Hunter S. Thompson {gonzo-journalist extraordinaire} wearing a braided wig [Go on!  Compare the pictures of Ward Churchill and Hunter S. Thompson!]).  He had been hired in 1980 as director of the American Indian Equal Opportunities program.  Then, in 1991, he was suddenly appointed associate professor in the Communications dept.  That same year, he received tenure at the main campus (at Boulder) of the University of Colorado  -- the academic flagship of Colorado, whose Buffalos regularly humiliated the football teams of other states.  [Free Republic Tenure that came without the normal close examination of his scholarly works, and without the traditional six-year probation, in which time senior faculty observe and judge a candidate's performance [Rocky Mountain News].  He didn't have a PhD (although, he does have a 1992 honorary doctorate from Alfred University, of Alfred, NY [Rocky Mountain News]), which is usually required, but is not essential.  He did have a 1975 Master's degree in Communications Theory, but it was from an obscure experimental alternative-education Illinois college  -- then Sangamon State University, now a part of the University of Illinois at Springfield.  The Administration was afraid that this  'strong candidate'  might  'get away.'  In 1997, he was transferred to the Ethnic Studies department and made a full professor [Denver Post].  Such a strong-willed, strong-featured, outspoken man seemed perfect for the job of reviving the Ethnic Studies department.


Four years pass, and the promise of Ward Churchill as department chairman seems fulfilled.  He has continued to publish, and is now a featured lecturer, speaking all across the nation about the injustices of the White man against the Indian.  Students and faculty flock to his speaking engagements.  He has achieved a certain affluence from the fees gained by these appearances.  Add to that his $114K salary [Denver Post].  Despite his anti-American rhetoric, he is an American success story.  His classrooms back at CU-B are packed.  There was one odd note, however.  Back in 1990 Prof. Churchill was stopped from marketing his artwork as 'Indian art.'  It seemed that under federal law you have to be an authentic Indian to sell  'Indian art.'  [Michelle Malkin]   Then, on Sept. 11, 2001, Ward Churchill makes a mistake.  He authors an essay, Some People Push Back: On the Justice of Roosting Chickens.   The essay is posted on the Internet that very eve.  By this time, he has become very sure of himself.  His crowd of liberal admirers hang upon his words.  He has become over-confident.  Churchill writes, in his infamous text, that the capitalist World Trade Center occupants, and subsequent casualties  "formed a technocratic corps at the very heart of America's global financial empire – the  'mighty engine of profit'  to which the military dimension of U.S. policy has always been enslaved – and they did so both willingly and knowingly.  . . .  If there was a better, more effective, or in fact any other way of visiting some penalty befitting their participation upon the little Eichmanns inhabiting the sterile sanctuary of the twin towers, I'd really be interested in hearing about it. [Kersplebedeb]   He even expands the essay into a book, On the Justice of Roosting Chickens : Reflections on the Consequences of U.S. Imperial Arrogance and Criminality, 320 pages, AK Press, Nov. 1, 2003 [Amazon Books].


Move ahead to 2005, and little Hamilton College of Clinton, NY, decides to invite Ward Churchill to speak on Feb. 3.  Students and faculty protest.  [Rocky Mountain News].   The Syracuse Post-Standard prints a story about Churchill's planned speech there on Jan. 26, noting that Hamilton art professor Steven Goldberg was outraged.  AP then picked it up.  Then, on Jan. 27, the New York Post prints a story.  The next day it made Bill O'Reilly's FOX show.  O'Reilly thought that Churchill should be arrested.  Another day, and the Washington Times writes about him.  On Jan. 30, the Pittsburgh Tribune Review.  Jan. 31, the New York Times.  In the next three days, the Seattle Times, the Philadelphia Daily News, the New York Sun, the Miami Herald, etc., etc., etc.  [Washington Monthly]   MSNBC, CNN, and MTV cover the story [Kersplebedeb and CBS News].  Hamilton caves in -- the Ward Churchill speaking engagement is cancelled -- for security reasons [Observer-Dispatch].  However, by this time the blogosphere has begun to swarm, with sites all over the Internet beginning to examine Professor Churchill's past in great detail.  Discrepancies between the actual and his claims surface almost immediately.  On Jan. 31, Ward Churchill quits his chairmanship of the Ethnic Studies department, under duress -- his salary drops to $94K [Denver Post].  At this juncture, the governor of Colorado, Bill Owens, demands Churchill be fired [WorldNetDaily].  In March Wheaton College of Norton, MA., and Eastern Washington University of Cheney, WA cancel Churchill speeches on their campuses -- again, claiming safety fears [CBS News].  At this juncture the University of Colorado president Elizabeth Hoffman comes to Churchill's support.  She is quoted as saying that  “Prof. Churchill's comments have precipitated a discussion we ought to have.”  [History News Network]  Then, the University of Wisconsin at Whitewater braves the onslaught and allows Churchill to defend himself [KKTV].  The University of Hawaii follows suit [Hawaii Reporter].  Predictably, radical Noam Chomsky of MIT says it all.  “I've read a fair amount of his work, and a lot of it is excellent, penetrating and of high scholarly quality."  [History News Network]  It is difficult to not satirize Professor Chomsky, but he has many, many admirers.  And, I had promised myself not to use the term  'moonbats'  in my essays.


Where to even start?  There is little about this man that turns out to be authentic.  The extent of his perfidy boggles the mind!  Through his prolific authorship, he has single-handedly muddied the historical waters of Indian history to an extent that might not be recoverable.  He seems an accomplished con man, a man who came to believe his own words, a white man who came to really believe that he was an American Indian.  Witness the succession of facts. 


He is not, racially, any part Indian at all.  At various times Churchill has told people he was Cherokee, Keetoowah, Muskogee, and Creek.  Mr. Churchill claimed in his 1980 resume the heritage of Creek and unenrolled Cherokee.  His most recent claim is that he is Meti.  The only actual relationship to the American-Indians that anyone has been able to document is that he was once married to an Indian woman, and was an  'associate member'  (a non-bloodline type of membership -- an honorary one) of the Keetoowah.  [Redstate and San Francisco Bay Area Indymedia].  American Indian Movement (AIM) and Morning Star (both American-Indian organizations) activists have been trying for years to convince CU-B that Churchill was not an Indian [Rocky Mountain News].  The International Indian Treaty Council kicked him out in 1986. In 1993 he was expelled from the AIM, partly for his radicalism.  [WorldNetDaily]


He does not have a glorious military past, was not a paratrooper, not a LRRP.  Military records document only that he was a jeep driver and movie projectionist.  According to the resume he was hired by CU-B on, he claimed only to have been a Public Information Specialist who wrote for and edited the battalion newsletter.  His audacious claims came later in a 1987 interview by the Denver Post.  [Perspectives]  


Then, there are the accusations of falsified data and plagiarism.   Also, claims of non-corroborating sources.  And, of course, the art scandal.  Thomas Brown, a sociology professor at Lamar University in Texas has accused Churchill of fabricating data for his publications.  Guenter Lewy, a retired political science professor from the University of Massachusetts, states,  "He just makes things up."  John LaVelle, a law professor at the University of New Mexico, claims Churchill has lifted passages with little change from other authors.  [My View of the World Just this week, Dalhousie University of Nova Scotia informed CU of the results of a 1997 investigation that concluded that Churchill had used the contents of an essay by Prof. Fay G. Cohen without crediting her.  Cohen maintains that she dropped the matter when Churchill threatened her.  [Denver Post]  His infamous claim, wherein the U.S. Army supposedly infected Mandan Indians with smallpox-laden blankets, used UCLA professor Russell Thornton as his source.  The problem is Thornton ascribes the incident to different causes, not even mentioning the Army.  [Newsday His written work is refused by major and minor reputable academic journals.  Therefore, his work tends to appear only in leftist and racialist nationalist periodicals.  [Free Republic]   He tried to punch a Denver reporter from Channel 4 News (an ABC affiliate) when he was questioned about  'Indian'  artwork that he sold as his own work in the 80s.  It turns out to be a mirror-image serigraph of a 1972 Thomas E. Mails painting.  [Hawaii Reporter


Next, there are his public activities, which trace the footsteps of a man filled with absolute loathing for the United States and its people.  After he got out of the Army, he started hanging around with the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS).  He met Bernadine Dohrn, a pretty young member of the Weather Underground (the Weathermen).  The Weathermen thought that violence was the way to advance  'the Revolution.'  Lacking expertise in the making of the bombs that they wanted to use against the  'System,'  they found a teacher in Churchill.  It is not clear from his military service records how he learned bomb-making, however.  After the disaster in New York, where three Weathermen blew themselves up in a brownstone, Churchill turned to the Native-American movement.  This was in 1971, a year before the firefight between Indians and the FBI at Wounded Knee  [Redstate].  In 1983, Churchill traveled to Tripoli with the brother of AIM leader Russell Means, to meet with renegade Libyan leader Col. Moammar Gadhafi.  This was at a time when the United States had broken off diplomatic relations with Lybia.  Reportedly, they were hoping that Gadhafi would throw in his support against the U.S. government on the issue of broken Indian treaties.  [little green footballs]  Then, there is the August, 2003 Seattle speech.  This is where a recording of the question-and-answer period at speech-end documents his advice to would-be homegrown terrorists.  In response to a question from a White male, Ward Churchill explains,  "You carry the weapon. That's how they don't see it coming. You're the one. . . .  You don't send the Black Liberation Army into Wall Street to conduct an action. You don't send the American Indian Movement into downtown Seattle to conduct an action.  Who do you send?  You!  With your beard shaved, your hair cut close and wearing a banker's suit."  [Rocky Mountain News In an interview of Mr. Churchill by Satya, a radical Green magazine, he replied to a question about the effectiveness of protests of U.S. policies,  "One of the things I've suggested is that it may be that more 9/11s are necessary."  [CBS News]  His restatements and corrections are legion, as he tries to wriggle out from the unpleasant after-effects of his frightening pronouncements.  It was probably inevitable that he would eventually get himself into serious trouble -- he has little control over his mouth or pen.  Truth is, this is a excessively voluble man, who rambles on endlessly in both writing and speech.  That he has little talent for cohesive argument, may be his eventual downfall.  Perhaps, this present debacle may be the time.

What is interesting about Ward Churchill is the way he seems to think.  He has a wondrously jumbled sense of things.  Apparently, in his own confused mind, he really believes the things he says.  There is a wonderful example of this, just recently.  In an appearance in April, he informed a questioner why he felt justified in being involved with the Indian effort, which was successful, to disrupt a Denver Italian-American rally last year on Columbus Day, to honor the day's namesake [Italy @ St. Louis].  He explains, very vaguely, but with complete conviction, that the Italian-Americans were denying him, and the other Indians (again, you have to realize that Ward probably really does think he's an Indian, no matter that the genealogists might disagree) their Ninth Amendment rights.  The Ninth establishes that  "the enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."   Apparently, celebrating Christopher Columbus automatically steps on Native-American toes.  Well, okay, we can see that, I guess.  However, once Churchill gets done delineating that fact in his precise mastery of the language, even that idea gets obscured.  Listen:  "celebration of the conditions that I was describing as pertaining to native people as an outcome of the process initiated by Christopher Columbus, celebrating that guy in any respect at all is a celebration of those conditions. That's a denial of fundamental human dignity, that's a denial of my Ninth Amendment rights . . ."  By the time he finishes, no one really understands what the Ninth Amendment means.  One is left with the suspicion that for Churchill the Ninth Amendment is a kind of catch-all that justifies anything he needs it to.  [Rocky Mountain News]  That this man became a college professor, a profession dedicated to precise thinking and the passing-on of knowledge to future generations, is an indictment of the present liberal control of Academia.  However, it must be admitted, that Prof. Ward Churchill is fun to watch, and even more fun to listen to.


The Administration at CU, in the meantime, is clearly petrified.  There are a couple of different elements to this terror.  It has been clear from her behavior that now-former President Elizabeth Hoffman [picture of Ms. Hoffman], has been worried that if she were seen as caving into the blog swarm, or the conservatives, that the whole of leftist Academia would end up set against her.  However, her demise probably came more from outraged state politicians and students' parents.  Nonetheless, making it clear that her fears were not exaggerated, 200 faculty of the CU system have signed a petition calling for the investigation, and in their mind harassment of Prof. Ward Churchill to cease immediately  [TalkLeft].  They are more concerned about academic freedom of speech (at least, for liberals) than Prof. Ward's behavior, possible illegal actions, or questionable scholarship.  On the other hand, she was frightened that if Prof. Ward was dismissed without a buyout, he would sue, might well win, and pocket untold millions.  His lawyer has bandied about the buyout sum of $10 million.  [Denver Post]  Students have reported that Ward Churchill has told them that he'll sue if he is terminated.   "They really don't want to do that unless they want me owning this university."   [Human Events]   


Last week, President Hoffman affirmed that Churchill would not be asked to resign if it was found by a special chancellor's investigation that he was guilty only of inflammatory remarks.  This week, while the jury was still out on Mr. Churchill, Ms. Hoffman resigned (she has also been taking heat for a football scandal).  [New York Times]   In the meantime, CU-B administrators are considering Prof. Churchill's dismisssal.  A report is due after March 14.  While the world awaits this singular document, the CU Board of Regents has authorized its lawyers to talk with Ward Churchill's attorney about a buyout -- according to television station KCNC.  [USA Today]  The Denver Post has reported that Churchill and CU had agreed upon a buyout sum, under $500K.  This was before the plagiarism charges by Dalhousie University Prof. Fay G. Cohen caused negotiations to break off.  [Seattle Post-Intelligencer]  We may never find out the exact amount agreed upon -- it is in the interest of CU for it not to be exactly known.   However the whole drama works out, it has exposed for the world to see the raw underside of the present liberal control of Academia, and the unfortunate state that the liberalized courts and legal system are in.  Conservatives could not ask for a better poster child for exposing liberal corruption.  Imagine this character getting rich from all his transgressions.  He is already well off.  In the wake of this scandal, the Colorado legislature is looking, again, at tenure policy [Denver Post].


For purposes of argument, let us dispense with most of his other transgressions and concentrate upon his racial origin, about which he has (by our lights, not his) lied.  Consider Ward Churchill from his own point of view.  Surely, no man has ever wanted anything so badly as Ward Churchill wanted to be Indian.  He is a great advocate of the American-Indian.  Of course, when he gets caught in one of his exaggerations, he does the Indian community little good.  Actually, Indian activists argue that he is damaging the Indian peoples, even when he doesn't get caught, because he is falsifying the historical record.   The AIM has called for colleges and universities to remove his books from their courses and libraries [WorldNetDaily].   He clearly vastly prefers American-Indian culture to his own.  He has been very active in Indian causes and activities.  Doesn't he sound a bit like Lawrence of Arabia (the great Arabist scholar-soldier-adventurer T.E. Lawrence, whose work alongside the Bedouins contributed so greatly to the Allied defeat of the Ottomon Turks in Arabia, Trans-Jordan, Palestine, and Syria during WWI [Amazon Books])?  [bio of T.E. Lawrence]  Or, the 19th Century explorer Sir Richard F. Burton, who was so like an Arab that he was able to penetrate Mecca undetected in 1853, the first White man to visit that sacred Muslim shrine [bio of Sir Richard F. Burton].  There is something of a tradition of White men preferring other cultures over their own.  Why, then, does it matter at all whether Ward Churchill is part Indian or not?  Why shouldn't he be able to study a culture other than his own that he admires?  The answer is a peculiar one, when you stop to think of it.  Affirmative Action records indicate that there were 39 applicants in 1991 for the Communications department associate professor position.  Eleven were American-Indians.  Two were actually interviewed and both these were suppposed to be Indians.  Ward, of course, was hired.  It is clear that one of the actual, if not stated requirements was you had to be Indian.  [Redstate]  In other words Whites and other non-Indians need not apply.  There is the belief within these departments across the nation's campuses that studies of a racial or ethnic group ought, only, to be done by members from within that group.  This flies in the face of academic tradition and scholarship.  If Ward Churchill were in the History department, instead, no one would object to his study of American-Indian history.  There is much, however, in the Ethnic Studies movement which fails to meet scholarly expectations.


The thing that tends to keep academics honest is peer-review.  When you send out a publication for consideration to a journal in your field, you encounter the journal's desire to maintain quality and objectivity.  Your work of scholarship is sent to a number of reviewers on the staffs of like-departments at different institutions to consider your handiwork.  It has to achieve a certain degree of approval before it can be published.  Indeed, the reviewers might demand changes before they will allow your document to see print.  The larger the pool of would-be reviewers and the greater the tradition of excellence in a field, the higher quality of scholarship that gets published.  Admittedly, the overwhelming presence of liberals in liberal arts and the soft-sciences has skewed the merit of many works being published, but it is not misplaced to associate a high degree of good-will in the performance of peer-reviewers.  The Ethnic Studies area fared better in the days of  'Revolution'  of the 60s and 70s.  This field of study was founded then in the optimistic desire to address old wrongs, to bring new light to problems that had often been ignored.  It now suffers from limited numbers, deep politicization, and a poor tradition of scholarship.  There is something of a fortress mentality among the racial and ethnic groups that, ironically, encourages racial and ethnic stereotyping.  [SF Weekly]  These groups are almost impossible to administrate or hold accountable.  The result is shoddy scholarship.  And the truth is, workers in this field are shunned like the plague by other faculty.  They are famous for often bitter internecine squabbling, and no one wants to get involved.  I hesitate to use the phrase  'academic ghetto,'  because of past negative associations, but it is difficult to keep it from surfacing.  


Why not move those who are up to the task to those larger, more traditional departments where, often, the same area is being investigated, anyway?  Certainly, it is to be expected that study of a given people will tend to attract researchers of that extraction.  This should not, however, bring about the exclusion of other interested parties.  If the premise of objective scholarship is sound (and, are we forgetting that it is the basis of the modern university?) then subjective experience has limited appeal.  The subjective voice, after all, is the aegis of fiction.  The fields of history (which currently, it must be admitted, suffers from the overt influence of Marxism and the abuse of structuralism [definition in the Dictionary of the History of Ideas]), anthropology (which is striving mightily, and with good result, to overcome a subjective and often silly past), sociology, and psychology are all departments where it is probably better to work the earth that the Ethnic Studies now hoes.  Even archeology might be a better place for these studies.  And, then there is American Studies -- already a catch-all. 


Of course, the fact that all the soft-sciences, not just Ethnic Studies, suffer from the perspective of Post-modernist meaninglessness [definition at University of Colorado] is a paradigm of our times.  That meaning may reappear to Western Civilization is questioned by liberals and hoped-for by conservatives.  There is, nonetheless, undoubted meaning in the humbler facts of life, which may provide the future constituents of a rebirth of high-purpose.  As the alcoholic must reach bottom before resuming life in sober form, so may civilization arise from the nadir.  What is most true of existence is that the future arrives unexpected. 


As parents learn more about what is going on on-campus.  As dissatisfied state legislatures rewrite the rules of tenure.  As liberals lose their choke-hold upon American Academia.  Ethnic Studies departments may increasingly be viewed as latter-half 20th Century anachronisms, which have no real place in the 21st Century.  A century we still have hope will see the search for truth rise above the muck of political and ideological distortion. 



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