Friday, February 04, 2005

Free Men and Frauds

We ask to be recognized as men. We ask that the same law shall work alike on all men. If an Indian breaks the law, punish him by the law. If a white man breaks the law, punish him also. Let me be a free man, free to travel, free to stop, free to work, free to trade where I choose, free to choose my own teachers, free to follow the religion of my fathers, free to talk, think and act for myself ... and I will obey every law or submit to the penalty.

We shall be all alike: brothers of one father and mother, with one sky above us and one country around us and one government for all. Then the Great Spirit Chief who rules above will smile upon this land and send rain to wash out the bloody spots made by brothers' hands upon the face of the earth. For this time the Indian race is waiting and praying. I hope no more groans of wounded men and women will ever go to the ear of the Great Spirit Chief above, and that all people may be one people.

Hin-mah-too-yah-lat-kekht [Rolling Thunder in the Mountains] has spoken for his people.

Joseph, Chief of the Nez Percé, 1879

Professor Ward Churchill has certainly dug himself a big hole with his forked tongue, and now the University of Colorado is wondering whether they should push him into it. His defenders - at least, the ones who aren't as crazy as Churchill is - are pleading academic freedom on his behalf. But academic freedom, like free speech and all other freedoms, has its limits. One of those limits is fraud, and Professor Ward Churchill is a fraud.

Churchill is no more an Indian than Arnold Schwarzenegger is. This has been pointed out plenty of times before, but now it's official: The United Keetoowah Band, which Churchill once attempted to enroll in on the claim that he is one-sixteenth Cherokee, has disowned him. Churchill is not a Cherokee and is no problem of ours, they say.

Normally, claiming to be Cherokee when you're actually whiter than David Duke's laundry is probably not academic fraud. But when your academic schtick is Identity Politics and it forms the basis of your classroom teaching, you're coming awfully close. When you're a moral and intellectual idiot on top of that, your pool of potential sympathy diminishes.

Claims of free speech and academic freedom are being hypocritically deployed in Churchill's case to begin with. If Churchill were the Grand Kolossal Konehead of the Ku Klux Klan, Hamilton College would never have invited him to speak and the University of Colorado would never have hired him. And rightly so - vile speech ought to be protected, not promoted.

Glenn Reynolds thinks Churchill ought not to be fired, and cites similar sentiment by Evan Coyne Maloney. A reasonable enough position, though there's a touch of spite in there, too: "Universities who tenure bad people should have to live with the consequences." In other words, UC hung Churchill's albatross around their own neck, so they should live with the stink. While the rest of us enjoy the Schadenfreude.

But again, everyone would feel differently if Churchill were preaching hatred of Native Americans instead of pretending to be one. (Churchill's hatred of the United States doesn't count, since we've all become numb to that sort of thing.)

The analogy is not so far off, either. Churchill is a prime example of the rotten deal that Native Americans have gotten in contemporary culture. The beret-wearing, AK-47-toting AIM activist is, in fact, a deeply offensive image to ordinary Indians across the country - Indians who correctly consider themselves to be not just good Native Americans, but Good Americans Period. It isn't sports team logos that rankle them - the Braves and Redskins are looked on with pride on the reservations. It's the urban revolutionaries who claim to speak for Native Americans. Especially the phony-ass white urban revolutionaries, which is what Ward Churchill is.

The objections of these true Native Americans are ignored. Because it's not about race, history, truth, or justice, it's all about our worthless politics.

UPDATE: Previous warning about Ward Churchill (and his accomplice Noam Chomsky) from the American Indian Movement, at a 1999 AIM council:

The group gathered to discuss their concerns regarding a defamatory "tribunal" in which distinguished Indian leaders of national and local Indian organizations were "put on trial" and condemned by a radical group of self-styled "Indian activists" falsely claming to be members of the American Indian Movement, and spearheaded by ring leader Ward Churchill ...

Specifically, in regards to the revisionist writings of Ward Churchill, Glen Morris and Russell Means, they often use people such as Vine Deloria, LaDonna Harris, Gerry Spence, Noam Chomsky and many other Indian and non-Indian intellectuals and academics, some who naively play into their game plan.

They continue to perpetuate this misinformation campaign in front-operations like Dark Night Field Notes, using well-known persons like Noam Chomsky, Eddie Hatcher, Winona LaDuke, and others on their advisory board. They are now putting out the same misinformation on the Internet (see letterhead and Dark Night Field Notes by Faith Attaglia, and Chomsky, LaDuke letters), also (See Bob Brown, AAPRP letter).

In order to carry out this cruel hoax, they are deceitful and treacherous to the point that they will always surround themselves with innocent and naïve individuals out of the Indian and non-Indian communities, some who are well known who actually have endorsed their revisionist, inaccurate, shoddy, and fraudulent writings. The result of this is that without review of the contents of their publications, Indian and non-Indian educators and educational institutions and libraries are using these books in their curriculum. In doing so, they and our students become victims of this fraud. Using the American Indian Movement to give themselves credibility, cover and access, they have been able to infiltrate other organizations and movements nationally and internationally.

The American Indian Movement Grand Governing Council urges our friends and supporters worldwide to expose and isolate these conspirators expeditiously.

We request that educators, Indian and non-Indians alike remove from their curriculums and libraries all of their revisionist, inaccurate and shoddy writings, and send them back to their publishers ...