Category: Due Process, Free Speech
Schools: University of Colorado at Boulder
Entrenched in vast controversy for referring to the civilians who died in the World Trade Center as “little Eichmanns,” University of Colorado at Boulder Professor Ward Churchill stepped down from his position as chair of CU-Boulder’s ethnic studies department. Problems arose, however, when the CU Board of Regents declared they were going to launch an investigation into Churchill’s “writings, speeches, tape recordings and other works.” FIRE wrote to CU noting that Churchill is entitled to due process and should be given the chance to defend himself, and assuring the university that Churchill’s speech, no matter how controversial or offensive, is protected by the First Amendment. Ultimately, the Board of Regents fired Churchill for “serious, repeated, and deliberate research misconduct” after finding that he had committed academic fraud. Churchill sued, on the basis that the investigation had been launched as a result of his controversial statements. FIRE took the position that while the initial investigation of Churchill’s speech was unconstitutional, as he was protected under the First Amendment, Churchill had put himself in the spotlight through his controversial statements, and was therefore susceptible to any further inquiry into his other works. In FIRE’s view, the termination for academic fraud was constitutional.
July 8, 2009
By Peter Schmidt at The Chronicle of Higher Education A state court judge on Tuesday not only denied Ward Churchill everything he sought in his long-running battle with the University of Colorado system, but also negated the one victory the controversial scholar had won so far: a jury verdict holding that system officials had violated his First Amendment rights by firing him from a job as a tenured ethnic-studies professor in response to statements he had made. Having presided over the four-week trial that led to the jury’s April 2 decision that the university had illegally fired Mr. Churchill for academic misconduct, […]» Read More
July 30, 2007
For critics of higher education, few campus controversies have been as illuminating as the ongoing saga of Professor Ward Churchill. His case has uniquely intertwined all of the higher education issues du jour—Academic freedom, plagiarism, affirmative action, liberal bias, degraded campus culture—into one messy cloud of controversy that just will not go away. And now that Churchill has sued his former employer, University of Colorado-Boulder, for defamation, more unflattering facts about standard operating procedure on campus may soon be revealed. A brief recap: Shortly after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Churchill, then the tenured chair of the UC-Boulder’s ethnic […]» Read More
July 30, 2007
This week, as expected, the University of Colorado regents dismissed Professor Ward Churchill from his tenured position in the Ethnic Studies Department. (A university committee had found that Churchill committed plagiarism and misused sources.) And, as expected, Churchill has filed suit, alleging First Amendment violations. The move against Churchill—who first attracted attention after describing those who perished (except for the terrorists) in the World Trade Center attack as “Little Eichmanns”—came over the opposition of the ACLU, which charged that the “poisoned atmosphere” of the inquiry into Churchill’s scholarship rendered meaningless the committee’s findings. ACTA president Anne Neal, on the […]» Read More
July 25, 2007
When Ward Churchill takes his dismissal case to court, he will have difficulty shifting a jury’s focus away from the academic-misconduct findings in his research, the president of a national watchdog group for free speech on college campuses said Tuesday. But the timing of the University of Colorado’s academic-misconduct investigation into Churchill’s work could be a hole in the school’s defense, said Greg Lukianoff, who heads the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, based in Philadelphia. Churchill—freshly fired from CU—is expected to file a First Amendment lawsuit against the university this morning in Denver District Court. The regents Tuesday evening […]» Read More
July 25, 2007
by Greg Lukianoff in The Huffington Post To the surprise of virtually no one, the University of Colorado’s (CU’s) Board of Regents voted to fire controversial professor Ward Churchill late yesterday. The Regents cited the extensive findings of academic misconduct against Churchill as the reason for the dismissal. Anyone following the case, however, will remember that Ward Churchill initially came to national attention because of an article in which he compared the victims of 9/11 to Nazi bureaucrat Adolf Eichmann. After a student newspaper at Hamilton College drew attention to that article in 2005, a national uproar ensued, prompting the […]» Read More
July 25, 2007
Nearly six years after Ward Churchill compared some American victims of terrorism to Nazi bureaucrats, the Board of Regents of the University of Colorado voted Tuesday night to fire him. But the controversial ethnic-studies professor said he was “ready to roll” into the next stage of his struggle with the university: a court of law. According to university administrators, it was findings that Mr. Churchill had committed research misconduct—and not the notoriety of Mr. Churchill’s opinions—that fueled the decision. To read the full story, please click here: http://chronicle.com/daily/2007/07/2007072502n.htm» Read More
May 25, 2006
Universities have traditionally been places where debate and the free exchange of ideas have been welcomed. But after 9/11, that may be changing — as some recent, troubling incidents suggest. In this column, I’ll survey some recent incidents suggesting free speech on campus is in peril, and discuss the extent to which the First Amendment protects student and faculty speech Cracking Down on Student Demonstrators and Controversial Student Speech Recently, students at the University of Miami (a private school, but one with a stated policy of fostering free speech) demonstrated alongside striking maintenance workers to show solidarity. Now, they face […]» Read More
May 18, 2006
The University of Colorado could fire professor Ward Churchill for plagiarism and fabrication as soon as next month, but the academic misconduct case is likely to linger in the courts for years, legal experts predicted Wednesday. The ethnic-studies professor most likely will take CU to federal court if administrators fire or suspend him without pay as recommended by a committee that examined his writings, his attorney, David Lane, said. Churchill’s lawsuit would accuse the university of retaliating against the tenured professor because of his essay saying some World Trade Center terrorism victims were not innocent and comparing them to a […]» Read More
September 10, 2005
By Linda Seebach Oh, that KC Johnson. He’s always getting into hot water. Of course, that may have something to do with the fact that the administration at Brooklyn College of The City University of New York keeps trying to bring the water to a full rolling boil, hoping he’ll jump out. Well, perhaps he should. He deserves better, and his institution doesn’t deserve to keep him. But his students, who on the evidence are unlikely to encounter many other faculty members who exemplify the academic virtues of free inquiry and principled disagreement, need him.Robert KC Johnson is a tenured […]» Read More
September 9, 2005
There is a chill on campus, but that’s nothing new. For decades, campus speech has been chilled by speech codes and other attempts to prevent expression that might offend. Some would like to imagine that the excesses of “political correctness” are ancient history, but repression in the name of tolerance hasn’t gone anywhere. Oppressive speech codes are not only still around—they have actually multiplied, even after numerous court decisions declared them unconstitutional. Within the past year, college students have been punished for such things as expressing a religious objection to homosexuality and arguing that corporal punishment may be acceptable. Students […]» Read More
April 15, 2005
By John Gravois at The Chronicle of Higher Education One morning a few weeks back, David A. Sandoval was sitting in his office at Colorado State University at Pueblo and speaking to a local reporter on the telephone. The reporter had called to get the Chicano-studies professor’s opinion on Ward Churchill, the University of Colorado at Boulder professor who had recently tripped the switch of national outrage by calling the victims of the World Trade Center bombings “little Eichmanns.” In the firebrand’s defense, Mr. Sandoval offered the standard-issue rhetoric of academic freedom: Mr. Churchill’s words were hurtful and terrible, yes, but […]» Read More
March 28, 2005
Both Ward Churchill and one of his legislative critics compared the University of Colorado to an asylum this weekend — showing that the debate over the controversial professor has not been put to rest by a university review released Thursday. Churchill says that the new investigation requested by the review — this time an inquiry into whether he engaged in plagiarism and other forms of research misconduct — is unfair. In a speech in San Francisco Friday night, he said that the new investigation at Colorado, which will examine among other things his claims of being an American Indian, was […]» Read More
March 24, 2005
LET’S DISPENSE with some tangents right off. It’s a bad idea for teachers to spank students. There’s evidence that women are not innately handicapped when it comes to math and science. And it’s offensive hyperbole to cast the World Trade Center victims of the 9/11 attacks as “little Eichmanns.” But that aside, we don’t have any problems with a student writing a school paper supporting corporal punishment, a university president raising the issue of possible gender differences, and a professor espousing radical ideas. In fact, our society and our universities are better off if faculty and students are allowed to […]» Read More
March 7, 2005
Insult is powerful. Insult begets both rage and humor, and often at the same time. Consider the dialogue in “Romance,” a new play by David Mamet in New York. A cast of six characters, all of themmen, some gay and at least one of them Jewish, goesafter each other. A Protestant defense lawyer and the Jew he’s in court to defend hate eachother. “You people can’t order a cheese sandwich without mentioning the Holocaust,” shouts the lawyer. “I hired a goy lawyer,” responds his client. “It’s like going to a straight hairdresser.” The satire aims for humor, but it’s humor […]» Read More
February 27, 2005
When Hamilton College canceled a Colorado professor’s appearance this month because of security concerns, it was only the latest in a recent string of free speech controversies at local campuses. Hamilton, the State University College at Oswego, Wells College and LeMoyne College have all become embroiled in the last year or so in what people should be allowed to say and when. It’s not just a local issue, said David French, president of Foundation for Individual Rights in Education in Philadelphia (FIRE). “The specific problems you’re running into are being replicated on a mass scale across the country,” French said. […]» Read More
February 24, 2005
University of Colorado Ethnic Studies professor Ward Churchill deserves to be excoriated and shunned. Churchill, as widely reported, likened Americans killed at the World Trade Center on 9/11 to “little Eichmanns.” At the same time he celebrated the “gallant sacrifice” of those terrorist “combat teams” who had annihilated them. Elsewhere, Churchill declared that the United States should be put “out of existence”; “it may be,” he also stated, “that more 9/11’s are necessary.” Both public officials and private citizens should exercise their right to free expression by scathingly criticizing such odious speech. But — barring evidence of violations such […]» Read More
February 18, 2005
IT WOULD BE tempting to pity Ward Churchill, if he were a more sympathetic character. It seems that whenever he opens his mouth these days, someone gets upset. Churchill, a professor of ethnic studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder, became engulfed in national controversy in early January, when an essay he wrote three years ago came to light. In the essay, he compared victims of the September 11 attacks to Nazi functionaries who were appropriate targets for retaliatory violence. Since then, there have been cries from politicians (including Colorado’s governor), academics, and pundits (led by Fox News’s Bill […]» Read More
February 15, 2005
The following text is excerpted from a letter by Greg Lukianoff, director of legal and public advocacy for the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, to University of Colorado at Boulder Interim Chancellor Philip P. DiStefano. Before discussing the position of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education on the recent controversy involving University of Colorado at Boulder professor Ward Churchill, I would like to say that FIRE is fully aware of the difficulties the university faces. FIRE has not seen a controversy involving political speech on campus provoke such passionate and often angry public response since the controversies that […]» Read More
February 15, 2005
As the sordid controversy of University of Colorado (UC) professor Ward Churchill plays itself out, what is perhaps the most damaging aspect of it has largely escaped notice: campuses’ double standard in First Amendment matters. Churchill, as widely reported, compared the World Trade Center victims on 9/11 to Nazis and praised their murderers as “gallant…combat teams.” In the ensuing national uproar, Hamilton College in New York, which had invited Churchill to speak, decided to cancel the event, stating it had received threats of violence against Churchill and college officers. The college’s president, Joan Hinde Stewart, covered her back with bogus […]» Read More
February 14, 2005
Fury over University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill’s inflammatory and crude comments branding victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks as “little Eichmanns” is well justified. But Colorado now stands at a crossroads where it must decide whether to indulge in an emotional overreaction that sacrifices academic freedom or to rediscover the true meaning of the adage attributed to Voltaire, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Indeed, “disapprove” seems far too modest a term to apply to Churchill’s ranting. In his effort to make a point about what he […]» Read More
April 5, 2013
Regular Torch readers may be familiar with FIRE’s previous coverage of the University of Colorado at Boulder (CU) Board of Regents’ decision to fire then-tenured professor Ward Churchill and the subsequent legal battle. This fight has now ended, as the Colorado Supreme Court ruled against him in September 2012 and the Supreme Court of the United States has declined to hear his appeal. As FIRE reported in 2005, Churchill lost his position after a CU faculty panel determined that he had engaged in “plagiarism, misuse of others’ work, falsification and fabrication of authority.” The investigation, though, had been initiated amidst a controversy […]» Read More
September 18, 2012
Writing for The Atlantic today, Wendy Kaminer—lawyer, author, civil libertarian, and member of FIRE’s Board of Advisers—poses an important question: Does the Colorado State Supreme Court’s disappointing decision to deny former University of Colorado tenured Professor Ward Churchill’s appeal by granting “absolute immunity” to the Colorado Board of Regents signal “The End of Free Speech at University of Colorado?” Professor Churchill has maintained—and a jury agreed—that the University’s justification for firing him was pretextual and that the real reason he was fired was for constitutionally protected speech in the form of statements he made about the victims of the attacks […]» Read More
September 12, 2012
On Monday, the Colorado Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s opinion (PDF) disposing of former University of Colorado at Boulder (CU) professor Ward Churchill’s claims against CU, reports The Denver Post. FIRE has closely monitored Churchill’s case for years. In 2005, FIRE wrote a letter to CU concerning Churchill’s firing and issued an analysis of the university’s report. The Colorado Supreme Court held the following: First, we hold that the Regents’ decision to terminate Churchill’s employment was a quasi-judicial action functionally comparable to a judicial process. Hence, the Regents are entitled to absolute immunity concerning their decision to terminate […]» Read More
June 6, 2012
The Colorado Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in former University of Colorado at Boulder Professor Ward Churchill’s First Amendment lawsuit against the university’s Board of Regents on Thursday. Longmont Times-Call reporter Mitchell Byars writes: The Colorado Supreme Court announced in 2011 that it would hear Churchill’s appeal, including a key argument about the quasi-judicial immunity doctrine that Churchill and his attorneys have challenged, arguing it threatens academic freedom and tenure at universities. In addition to reviewing whether granting CU’s Board of Regents quasi-judicial immunity comports with federal law, the Supreme Court will consider whether CU violated Churchill’s First Amendment […]» Read More
July 25, 2007
Last night the University of Colorado Board of Regents voted to fire professor Ward Churchill on the grounds of “serious, repeated, and deliberate research misconduct.” This vote came more than two years after the university investigated Churchill for making controversial public statements, including a reference to the victims of the World Trade Center attacks as “little Eichmanns.” FIRE released an analysis of the situation in 2005, determining that Churchill’s statements are protected and that the university’s initial investigation was unconstitutional. FIRE further cautioned that while the university’s investigation of Churchill’s research misconduct must not be swayed by anger over the […]» Read More
March 25, 2005
On March 24, 2005, the University of Colorado Board of Regents released its “Report on Conclusion of Preliminary Review in the Matter of Professor Ward Churchill.” This report states that no action should be taken against Professor Churchill on the basis of even his most controversial public statements. The report also states, however, that sufficient evidence exists of “plagiarism, misuse of others’ work, falsification and fabrication of authority” to refer such allegations to the University of Colorado at Boulder Standing Committee on Research Misconduct. Additionally, the report also refers to the Standing Committee the question of whether Churchill “committed research […]» Read More
Churchill speaking at the Bay Area Anarchist Book Fair in May 2005.
|Born||Ward LeRoy Churchill|
1947 (age 70–71)
Urbana, Illinois, U.S.
Ward LeRoy Churchill (born 1947) is an author and political activist. He was a professor of ethnic studies at the University of Colorado Boulder from 1990 until 2007. The primary focus of his work is on the historical treatment of political dissenters and Native Americans by the United States government. His work features controversial and provocative views, written in a direct, often confrontational style.
In January 2005, Churchill's work attracted controversy because of the circulation of a 2001 essay, "On the Justice of Roosting Chickens", in which he argued the September 11 attacks were a natural and unavoidable consequence of unlawful US foreign policy over the latter half of the 20th century; the essay is well known for Churchill's use of the phrase "little Eichmanns" to describe the "technocratic corps" working in the World Trade Center.
In March 2005 the University of Colorado began investigating allegations that Churchill had engaged in research misconduct; it reported in June 2006 that he had done so. Churchill was fired on July 24, 2007, leading to a claim by some scholars that he was fired because of the "Little Eichmanns" comment. Churchill filed a lawsuit against the University of Colorado for unlawful termination of employment. In April 2009 a Denver jury found that Churchill was wrongly fired, awarding him $1 in damages. In July 2009, a District Court judge vacated the monetary award and declined Churchill's request to order his reinstatement, deciding the university has "quasi-judicial immunity". In February 2010, Churchill appealed the judge's decision. In November 2010, the Colorado Court of Appeals upheld the lower-court's ruling. In September 10, 2012, the Colorado Supreme Court upheld the lower courts' decisions in favor of the University of Colorado. On April 1, 2013, the United States Supreme Court declined to hear the case.
In a February 2014 interview, Churchill commented that after living more than forty years in the northern plains/Colorado region, he had relocated to Atlanta, Georgia in 2013. Churchill also stated that he had a half-dozen uncompleted books which he intended to finish and publish in the next three years.
Early life and education
Churchill was born in Urbana, Illinois, to Jack LeRoy Churchill and Maralyn Lucretia Allen. His parents divorced before he was two, and he grew up in Elmwood, where he attended local schools.
In 1966, he was drafted into the United States Army. On his 1980 resume, he said he served as a public-information specialist who "wrote and edited the battalion newsletter and wrote news releases."
In a 1987 profile on Churchill, the Denver Post reported that he was drafted, went to paratrooper school, then volunteered for Vietnam, where he served a 10-month tour as Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol (LRRP), six-man teams sent out to track down the enemy. The Post article also reported that Churchill was politically radicalized as a result of his experiences in Vietnam. Churchill told the Post that he had spent some time at the Chicago office of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) in the late 1960s, and briefly taught members of the Weather Underground how to build bombs and fire weapons.
In 2005, the Denver Post reported that Churchill's military records show he was trained as a film projectionist and light truck driver, but they do not reflect paratrooper school or LRRP training. The 75th Ranger Regiment Association found no record of Churchill having been a member of the unit, or a LRRP team.
Churchill received his B.A. in technological communications in 1974 and M.A. in communications theory in 1975, both from Sangamon State University, now the University of Illinois at Springfield.
In 1978, Churchill began working at the University of Colorado Boulder as an affirmative action officer in the university administration. He also lectured on American Indian issues in the ethnic studies program. In 1990, the University of Colorado hired him as an associate professor, although he did not possess the academic doctorate usually required for the position. The following year he was granted tenure in the Communications department, without the usual six-year probationary period, after having been declined by the Sociology and Political Science departments.
He has long been interested in issues associated with the Dawes Act, which broke up the communal reservation lands and assigned plots to individual households. Connected with that was the federal government's first use of "blood quantum" to define individual membership in tribes, for what became known as the Dawes Rolls. Since re-establishing self-governments, federally recognized tribes have established their own criteria for enrollment as members, often related to descent from recognized historical lists, but less often requiring proofs of blood quantum. Some of his published works address these issues, which he has interpreted as part of the federal government's policy of genocide against Native Americans.
In 1995 Churchill discussed his views with David Barsamian in an interview:
You could say that five hundred years ago was the basis of blood quantum in Ibero-America. But in Anglo-America, while there was some preoccupation with it, it was not formalized until the passage of the General Allotment Act, mid-1880s. At that point they began to define Indian as being someone who was demonstrably and documentably of at least one-quarter by quantum blood indigenous in a given group. You couldn't be an eighth Cheyenne and an eighth Arapaho and be an Indian. You had to be a quarter Cheyenne or a quarter Arapaho or hopefully a quarter and a quarter. The reason for this was quite clear. They were identifying Indians for purposes of allotting them individual parcels of land in the existing reservation base at that point. If they ran out of Indians identifiable as such, then the rest of the land would be declared surplus. So it was clearly in the interests of the government to create a definition of Indianness that would minimize the number of Indians that were available. It was an economic motivation for the application of this genetic criteria to Indianness in the first place. It's become increasingly so ever since." (David Barsamian (December 1995). "Interview with Ward Churchill: Historical and Current Perspectives". Z Magazine. Archived from the original on September 17, 2001. )
In 1996, Churchill moved to the new Ethnic Studies Department of the University of Colorado. In 1997, he was promoted to full professor. He was selected as chairman of the department in June 2002.
In January 2005, during the controversy over his 9/11 remarks, Churchill resigned as chairman of the ethnic studies department at the University of Colorado — his term as chair was scheduled to expire in June of that year. On May 16, 2006, the Investigative Committee of the Standing Committee on Research Misconduct at the University of Colorado concluded that Churchill had committed multiple counts of academic misconduct, specifically plagiarism, fabrication, and falsification. On July 24, 2007, Churchill was fired for academic misconduct in an eight to one vote by the University of Colorado's Board of Regents.
Genealogy and Tribal affiliation
In 2003, Churchill stated, "I am myself of Muscogee and Creek descent on my father's side, Cherokee on my mother's, and am an enrolled member of the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians." In 1992, Churchill wrote elsewhere that he is one-eighth Creek and one-sixteenth Cherokee. In 1993, Churchill told the Colorado Daily that "he was one-sixteenth Creek and Cherokee." Churchill told the Denver Post in February 2005 that he is three-sixteenths Cherokee.
In a statement dated May 9, 2005, and posted on its website, the United Keetoowah Band initially said,
"The United Keetoowah Band would like to make it clear that Mr. Churchill IS NOT a member of the Keetoowah Band and was only given an honorary 'associate membership' in the early 1990s because he could not prove any Cherokee ancestry." The tribe said that all of Churchill's "past, present and future claims or assertions of Keetoowah 'enrollment,' written or spoken, including but not limited to; biographies, curriculum vitae, lectures, applications for employment, or any other reference not listed herein, are deemed fraudulent by the United Keetoowah Band."
Two days later, the United Keetoowah Band replaced its statement and acknowledged Churchill's "alleged ancestry" of being Cherokee:
"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," the tribe's website now said. "However, Mr. Churchill may possess eligibility status for Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, since he claims 1/16 Cherokee."
The tribe's spokesperson, Lisa Stopp, stated the tribe enrolls only members with certified one-quarter American Indian blood. The website statement further clarified that Churchill "was not eligible for tribal membership due to the fact that he does not possess a 'Certificate of Degree of Indian Blood (CDIB)", and the associate membership did not entitle an individual to voting rights or enrollment in the tribe.
Churchill has never asked for CDIB certification, and finds the idea of being "vetted" by the US government offensive.
In June 1994, the United Keetoowah Band had voted to stop awarding associate memberships. Such honorary associate membership recognizes an individual's assistance to the tribe, but it has nothing to do with Indian ancestry, and it does not entitle an individual to vote in the tribe as a member. The Keetoowah Band states that Churchill still holds the associate membership and it has not been rescinded. In a separate interview, Ernestine Berry, formerly on the tribe's enrollment committee and four years on its council, said that Churchill had never fulfilled a promise to help the tribe.
In June 2005, the Rocky Mountain News published an article about Churchill's genealogy and family history. It "turned up no evidence of a single Indian ancestor" among 142 direct ancestors [of Churchill's] identified from records. The News reported that both Churchill's birth parents were listed as white on the 1930 census, as were all but two of his great-great-grandparents listed on previous census and other official documents. The News found that some of Churchill's accounts of where his ancestors had lived did not agree with documented records. Numerous members of Churchill's extended family have longstanding family legends of Indian ancestry among ancestors; but, none was confirmed among the 142 direct forebears of Churchill who were identified.
Documents in Churchill's university personnel file show that he was granted tenure in a "special opportunity position." In 1994, then CU-Boulder Chancellor James Corbridge refused to take action on allegations that Churchill was fraudulently claiming to be an Indian, saying "it has always been university policy that a person's race or ethnicity is self-proving."
Some of Churchill's Native American critics, such as Vernon Bellecourt (White Earth Ojibwe) and Suzan Shown Harjo (Southern Cheyenne-Muscogee Creek), argue that his assertion of Native American ancestry without the ability to prove it might constitute misrepresentation and grounds for termination. The University has said that it does not hire on the basis of ethnicity. The University of Colorado's Research Misconduct Committee conducted a preliminary investigation into whether Churchill misrepresented his ethnicity to "add credibility and public acceptance to his scholarship." The committee concluded that the allegation was not "appropriate for further investigation under the definition of research misconduct."
In a 2005 interview in The Rocky Mountain News, Churchill said, "I have never been confirmed as having one-quarter blood, and never said I was. And even if [the critics] are absolutely right, what does that have to do with this issue? I have never claimed to be goddamned Sitting Bull." The longtime indigenous activist Russell Means said in February of that year, "So I want, from this day forward, every media person nationally, internationally and locally to know that we have ascertained that Ward Churchill is a full-blooded Indian leader."
Churchill has responded to requests for verification of his claimed Indian heritage in various ways, including attacking the blood quantum upon which some Native American tribes establish their membership requirements. Churchill argues that the United States instituted blood quantum laws based upon rules of descendancy in order to further goals of personal enrichment and political expediency.
For decades in his writings, Churchill has argued that blood quantum laws have an inherent genocidal purpose. He says,
"Set the blood quantum at one-quarter, hold to it as a rigid definition of Indians, let intermarriage proceed as it [has] and eventually Indians will be defined out of existence".
Churchill's assertions have been raised as one of the several research-misconduct allegations that were brought against him in 2005 (see below). He has been accused of using his interpretation of the Dawes Act to attack tribal governments that would not recognize him as a member.
Churchill has written on American Indian history and culture, and speaks about genocide inflicted on the indigenous people of the Americas by European settlers and what he describes as the repression of native peoples that continues to this day.
According to the University of Colorado investigation, "His academic publications are nearly all works of synthesis and reinterpretation, drawing upon studies by other scholars, not monographs describing new research based on primary sources." The investigation also noted that "he has decided to publish largely in alternative presses or journals, not in the university presses or mainstream peer-reviewed journals often favored by more conventional academics." In addition to his academic writing, Churchill has written for several general readership magazines of political opinion.
In 1986, Churchill wrote an essay titled Pacifism as Pathology: Notes on an American Pseudopraxis criticizing pacifist politics within the U.S. left as being hypocritical, de factoracist and ineffectual. In 1998, Arbeiter Ring Publishing published the essay in a book entitled Pacifism as Pathology: Reflections on the Role of Armed Struggle in North America and listing Ward Churchill as the author. The book included a preface by Ed Mead, a new introduction to the essay by Churchill and a commentary by Mike Ryan. The book sparked much debate in leftist circles and inspired more aggressive tactics within the anti-globalization movement in the following few years.
Agents of Repression (1988), co-authored by Jim Vander Wall, describes what the authors claim was a secret war against the Black Panther Party and American Indian Movement carried out during the late 1960s and '70s by the FBI under the COINTELPRO program. The COINTELPRO Papers (1990; reissued 2002), also co-authored with Jim Vander Wall, examines a series of original FBI memos that detail the Bureau's activities against various leftist groups, from the U.S. Communist Party in the 1950s to activists concerned with Central American issues in the 1980s.
In Fantasies of the Master Race (1992), Churchill examines the portrayal of American Indians and the use of American Indian symbols in popular American culture. He focuses on such phenomena as Tony Hillerman's mystery novels, the film Dances with Wolves, and the New Age movement, finding examples of cultural imperialism and exploitation. Churchill calls author Carlos Castaneda's claims of revealing the teachings of a Yaqui Indian shaman, the "greatest hoax since Piltdown Man."
Struggle for the Land (1993; reissued 2002) is a collection of essays in which Churchill chronicles what he describes as the U.S. government's systematic exploitation of Native lands and the killing or displacement of American Indians. He details Native American efforts in the 19th and 20th centuries to prevent defoliation and industrial practices such as surface mining.
Churchill's Indians Are Us? (1994), a sequel to Fantasies of the Master Race, further explores American Indian issues in popular culture and politics. He examines the movie Black Robe, the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation killings, the prosecution of Leonard Peltier, sports mascots, the Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990, and blood quantum laws, calling them tools of genocide. Churchill is particularly outspoken about New Age exploitations of shamanism and American Indian sacred traditions, and the "do-it-yourself Indianism" of certain contemporary authors. John P. LaVelle of the University of New Mexico School of Law published a review of Indians Are Us? in The American Indian Quarterly. Professor LaVelle, an enrolled member of the Santee Sioux Nation, states that Indians Are Us? twists historical facts and is hostile toward Indian tribes. It was in this book that Churchill first made the claim that the United States distributed "smallpox-infested blankets" to Indian tribes, a claim which he repeated several times over the next decade. The claim has been criticized as a falsification. Churchill has, however, received support from some scholars.
From a Native Son: Selected Essays on Indigenism, 1985–1995 (1996) is a collection of 23 previously published essays on Native American history, culture, and political activism. In his introduction to this volume, Howard Zinn lauds "the emergence of a new generation of Native-American scholars" and describes Churchill's writing as "powerful, eloquent, unsparing of cant and deception".
Churchill's A Little Matter of Genocide (1997) is a survey of ethnic cleansing in the Americas from 1492 to the present. He compares the treatment of North American Indians to historical instances of genocide by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, Turks against Armenians, and Europeans against the Gypsies, as well as Nazis against the Poles and Jews.
In Perversions of Justice (2002), Churchill argues that the U.S.'s legal system was adapted to gain control over Native American people. Tracing the evolution of federal Indian law, Churchill argues that the principles set forth were not only applied to non-Indians in the U.S., but later adapted for application abroad. He concludes that this demonstrates the development of the U.S.'s "imperial logic," which depends on a "corrupt form of legalism" to establish colonial control and empire.
Churchill's controversial essay on 9/11 was expanded into a book-length manuscript, published as On the Justice of Roosting Chickens: Reflections on the Consequences of U.S. Imperial Arrogance and Criminality (2003) by AK Press. The book features two other chapters, one listing US military interventions, another listing what Churchill believes to be US violations of international law. The original essay takes the "roosting chickens" of the title from a 1963 Malcolm X speech, in which Malcolm X linked the assassination of U.S. president John F. Kennedy to the violence which Kennedy perpetuated as "merely a case of chickens coming home to roost." Churchill's essays in this book address the worldwide forms of resistance that he posits were and continue to be provoked by U.S. imperialism of the 20th and 21st centuries.
In Kill the Indian, Save the Man: The Genocidal Impact of American Indian Residential Schools (2004), Churchill traces the history of removing American Indian children from their homes to residential schools (in Canada) or Indian boarding schools (in the USA) as part of government policies (1880s–1980s) which he regards as genocidal.
Activism on Native American issues
Churchill has been active since at least 1984 as the co-director of the Denver-based American Indian Movement of Colorado, now an autonomous chapter of the American Indian Movement. In 1993, he and other local AIM leaders, including Russell Means, Glenn T. Morris, Robert Robideau, and David Hill, broke with the national AIM leadership, including Dennis Banks and the brothers Vernon and Clyde Bellecourt, claiming that all AIM chapters are autonomous. The AIM Grand Governing Council is based in Minneapolis and retains the name of the national group. It says that the schism arose when Means, Churchill, Glenn T. Morris and others openly supported the Miskito Indian group Misurasata, who were allied with the anti-revolutionary, CIA-backed Contras.
Journalists such as Harlan McKosato attributed the split to Means and other AIM members dividing over opposition to the Bellecourt brothers because of their alleged involvement in the execution of Anna Mae Aquash in December 1975, who was then the highest-ranking woman in AIM but had been suspected of being an informant. It was a year in which other FBI informants had been discovered in AIM. On November 3, 1999, Means held a press conference in Denver, Colorado in which he accused the Bellecourt brothers of complicity in Aquash's death, and named three lower-level AIM members involved in her death: Arlo Looking Cloud, John Graham, and Theda Nelson Clarke. This was the first time that an AIM leader active at the time of the Aquash murder had publicly accused AIM of having been involved.
Looking Cloud and Graham were convicted of murder in 2004 and 2010, by federal and South Dakota state juries, respectively. By then Clark was being cared for in a nursing home and was not indicted. Means attributed the split in AIM to divisions in the aftermath of Aquash's murder. The journalist Harlan McKosato said in 1999, "...her [Aquash's] death has divided the American Indian Movement..."
The schism continued, with the national AIM leadership claiming that the local AIM leaders, such as Churchill, are tools of the U.S. government used against other American Indians. The leaders of the national AIM organization, now called AIM Grand Governing Council, claim that Churchill has worked in the past as an underground counter-intelligence source for the U.S. government, for example the FBI, and local, non-Indian, police forces, to subvert the national AIM organization. Specifically, they refer to a 1993 Boulder, Colorado interview with Jodi Rave, a former columnist for the Denver Post, in which Churchill stated that he "was teaching the Rapid City Police Department about the American Indian Movement." In addition, Vernon Bellecourt accused Churchill of having 'fraudulently represented himself as an Indian' to bolster his credentials. Bellecourt said he complained to the University of Colorado about this as early as 1986.
Churchill has been a leader of Colorado AIM's annual protests in Denver against the Columbus Day holiday and its associated parade. Colorado AIM's leadership has come into conflict with some leaders in the Denver Italian American community, the main supporters of the parade. As early as 2004, Churchill had claimed that such parades are unconstitutional, arguing that the Ninth Amendment to the Constitution provides Native Americans with a right not to be subjected to such displays, overriding the First Amendment rights of non-Native Americans.
9/11 essay controversy
Churchill wrote an essay in September 2001 entitled On the Justice of Roosting Chickens. In it, he argued that the September 11 attacks were provoked by U.S. foreign policy. He compared the role of financial workers at the World Trade Center in "ongoing genocidal American imperialism" to the role played by Adolf Eichmann in organizing the Holocaust. In 2005, this essay was widely publicized when Hamilton College invited Churchill to speak. This led to both condemnations of Churchill and counter-accusations of McCarthyism by Churchill and supporters. Following the controversy, the University of Colorado interim Chancellor Phil DiStefano said, "While Professor Churchill has the constitutional right to express his political views, his essay on 9/11 has outraged and appalled us and the general public."
A documentary called Shouting Fire: Stories from the Edge of Free Speech, broadcast on HBO, prominently features Churchill's case in addressing the issues of free speech and First Amendment rights.
Research misconduct investigation
The controversy attracted increased academic attention to Churchill's research, which had already been criticized by the legal scholar John LaVelle and historian Guenter Lewy. Additional critics were the sociologist Thomas Brown, who had been preparing an article on Churchill's work, and the historians R.G. Robertson and Russell Thornton, who claimed that Churchill had misrepresented their work. In 2005, University of Colorado Boulder administrators ordered an investigation into seven allegations of research misconduct, including three allegations of plagiarism, and four allegations of fabrication or falsification regarding the history of the Dawes Act, the Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990, and statements that smallpox was intentionally spread to Native Americans by John Smith in 1614 and by the United States Army at Fort Clark in 1837 (not to be confused with the well-documented use of smallpox-infected blankets at Fort Pitt in 1764).
On May 16, 2006 the University released their findings; the Investigative Committee agreed unanimously that Churchill had engaged in "serious research misconduct", including falsification, fabrication, and two of the three allegations of plagiarism. The committee was divided on the appropriate level of sanctions. The Standing Committee on Research Misconduct accepted the findings of the Investigative Committee but also disagreed on what sanctions should be imposed. Churchill's appeal against his proposed dismissal was considered by a panel of the University's Privilege and Tenure Committee, which found that two of the seven findings of misconduct did not constitute dismissible offences. Three members recommended that the penalty should be demotion and one year's suspension without pay, while two favored dismissal.
On July 24, 2007, the University regents voted seven to two to uphold all seven of the findings of research misconduct, overruling the recommendation of Privilege and Tenure panel that two be dismissed. By a vote of eight to one, the regents determined to fire Churchill.
The next day, Churchill filed a lawsuit in state court claiming that the firing was retribution for his expressing politically unpopular views. The jury in Churchill's suit for reinstatement weighed the university's claims of academic misconduct per jury instructions it received in the case. As Stanley Fish said, "It was the jury’s task to determine whether Churchill’s dismissal would have occurred independently of the adverse political response to his constitutionally protected statements." The jury found that the alleged misconduct would not have led to Churchill's firing and rejected the university's academic misconduct claim as the grounds for dismissal. On April 1, 2009, a Colorado jury found that Churchill had been wrongly fired, and awarded $1 in damages. As one of the jurors said later in a press interview, "it wasn't a slap in his face or anything like that when we didn't give him any money. It's just that [Churchill's attorney] David Lane kept saying this wasn't about the money, and in the end, we took his word for that." Churchill's counsel asked Chief Judge Larry J. Naves of the Denver District Court to order reinstatement in light of the verdict.
On July 7, 2009, Judge Naves found that the defendants (university) were entitled to quasi-judicial immunity as a matter of law, vacated the jury verdict and determined that the University did not owe Churchill any financial compensation. Naves denied Churchill's request for reinstatement at CU.
Churchill appealed both decisions. On November 24, 2010, a three-judge panel of the Colorado Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's decision. In February 2011, Churchill filed a petition for writ of certiorari with the Colorado Supreme Court. In late May 2011, the Colorado Supreme Court agreed to hear his case. Court records indicate that oral arguments began June 7, 2012. On September 10, 2012, the court ruled that the University had "quasi-judicial immunity", upholding the trial court's ruling. On April 1, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal from Churchill.
- Books, as editor
Books, as author and co-author:
- Culture versus Economism: Essays on Marxism in the Multicultural Arena. with Elisabeth Lloyd. Indigena Press. 1984.
- Agents of Repression: The FBI's Secret Wars Against the Black Panther Party and the American Indian Movement. with Jim Vander Wall. Boulder CO: South End Press. 1988. ISBN 978-0-89608-294-6.
- The COINTELPRO Papers: Documents from the FBI's Secret War Against Domestic Dissent. with Jim Vander Wall. Boulder CO: South End Press. 1990. ISBN 978-0-89608-359-2.
- Fantasies of the Master Race: Literature, Cinema, and the Colonization of American Indians. Common Courage Press. 1992. ISBN 978-0-87286-348-4.
- Churchill, Ward (1992). Jennie and Jim Vander Wall, ed. Cages of Steel: The Politics of Imprisonment in America (Activism, Politics, Culture, Theory, Vol. 4 ed.). Maisonneuve Press. ISBN 978-0-944624-17-3. Re-released as Churchill, Ward (2004). Jim Vander Wall, ed. Politics of Imprisonment in the United States. AK Press. ISBN 978-1-904859-12-3.
- Struggle for the Land: Indigenous Resistance to Genocide, Ecocide and Expropriation in Contemporary North America. Common Courage Press. 1993. ISBN 978-1-56751-001-0. Revised and expanded edition: Struggle for the Land: Native North American Resistance to Genocide, Ecocide and Colonization. San Francisco CA: City Lights Books. 2002. ISBN 978-0-87286-415-3.
- Indians Are Us?: Culture and Genocide in Native North America. Common Courage Press. 1994. ISBN 978-1-56751-021-8.
- Since Predator Came: Notes from the Struggle for American Indian Liberation. Aigis Press. 1995. ISBN 978-1-883930-03-5.
- Churchill, Ward (1996). From a Native Son: Selected Essays on Indigenism 1985–1995. Boulder CO: South End Press. ISBN 978-0-89608-553-4.
- Churchill, Ward (July–September 1992). "I Am Indigenist: Notes on the Ideology of the Fourth World". Z Papers. 1 (3). Archived from the original on September 16, 2001.
- Churchill, Ward (1994). "Let's Spread the Fun Around". Archived from the original on September 12, 2007. First published as "Crimes Against Humanity" in Margaret Anderson and Patricia Hill (eds.) (1994). Race, Class and Gender: An Anthology. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth. pp. 366–73. Also published under the titles "The Indian Chant and the Tomahawk Chop" and "Using Indian Names as Mascots Harms Native Americans".
- Churchill, Ward (November 1998). "Smoke Signals: A History of Native Americans in Cinema". LiP Magazine.
- Churchill, Ward (Winter–Spring 2003). "An American Holocaust? The Structure of Denial". Socialism and Democracy. 17 (2): 25–76. doi:10.1080/08854300308428341. Archived from the original on February 6, 2005.
- Churchill, Ward (Spring 2005). "The Ghosts of 9-1-1: Reflections on History, Justice and Roosting Chickens". Alternative Press Review. 9 (1): 45–56. Archived from the original on October 2, 2006.
- Churchill, Ward (July–August 2007). "The Fourth World: Struggles for Traditional Lands and Ways of Life". Left Turn. 25: 25–29.
- Audio and video
- Doing Time: The Politics of Imprisonment, audio CD of a lecture, recorded at the Doing Time Conference at the University of Winnipeg, September 2000 (AK Press, 2001, ISBN 978-1-902593-47-0)
- Life In Occupied America (AK Press, 2003, ISBN 978-1-902593-72-2)
- In A Pig's Eye: Reflections on the Police State, Repression, and Native America (AK Press, 2002, ISBN 978-1-902593-50-0)
- US Off The Planet!: An Evening In Eugene With Ward Churchill And Chellis Glendinning, VHS video recorded July 17, 2001 (Cascadia Media Collective, 2002)
- Pacifism and Pathology in the American Left, 2003 audio CD recorded at an AK Press warehouse in Oakland (AK Press Audio)
- Z Mag Ward Churchill Audio August 10, 2003 and earlier
- Churchill Speaks About Academic Freedom – Free Speech Radio News February 9, 2005
- Ward Churchill Under Fire – Free Speech Radio News, February 3, 2005.
- The Justice of Roosting Chickens: Ward Churchill Speaks The Pacifica Network Show, Democracy Now!