Sunday, August 4, 2013

When They Came for Ward Churchill: Eight Years Later

I don't know how you feel about Professor Ward Churchill. Most of you will probably only dimly recall some of the more notorious claims made against him back in 2005, claims made in the wake of an essay he wrote in 2001 titled, "Chickens Coming Home to Roost."

In the now probably forgotten furor over this essay, Mr. Churchill was vilified and removed from his tenured position at the University of Colorado for calling some of the people who were killed in the September 11 attacks "little Eichmanns."

I would suggest anyone interested in what Mr. Churchill actually said, and what happened to him afterwards, click on over to YouTube and see the documentary whose name I borrowed for the the title of this article, [When They Came for Ward Churchill].

I was watching the documentary again recently, as Mr. Churchill's legal fight just ended this summer. A strange legal bout it was too.

Mr. Churchill was found not to have committed any of the alleged academic or other suspected "violations" he had been accused of.

The University of Colorado was found to have fired Mr. Churchill illegally, in violation of contract.

Mr. Churchill had not asked for a monetary settlement, in fact hadn't wanted one; he received an award from the courts of one dollar (1.00).

The State of Colorado refused to reinstate Mr. Churchill, despite the finding of unlawful firing and despite the finding that he had never committed an academic "violation" of any kind.

Representatives of the American Indian Movement (A.I.M.) stated that the attacks on Mr. Churchill was just the beginning of a nation-wide push against academia who dared oppose the then Bush administrations' policies in the Middle East and elsewhere.

Almost a decade later, it appears all their predictions have come true with the current administration--in spades.

Going over several of Mr. Churchill's recorded speaking engagements and interviews, one quickly realizes how erudite and well spoken he is. That a man of his intellectual caliber could so easily be smeared and marginalized is chilling.

As for his detractors who attempted to discredit his ties to the Native American Movement and peoples, I have to say, that if race is truly a social construct, then blood quantum of one's ancestry has nothing to do with the identity of an individual who lives and works in a given ethnic community.

In Native American accounts, there have often been adoptions of people from other groups and races. These people, having been accepted into the community, become part of that indigenous group. As for the truth or falsehood of Mr. Churchill having an actual Native American progenitor, many white families, especially those of Appalachian and Mid-Western descent, have familial claims of Indigenous ancestors. Whether these are true or not was often difficult to determine prior to the new genetic testing technologies that have recently become available.

This story was used against Mr. Churchill as though he had used a false claim of Native Ancestry to procure a tenured position at university--which never happened.

Unlike a certain United States Senator, who was found to have no Indigenous ancestry, yet claimed such to gain entrance to the Ivy League.

She, the Senator in question who committed this offense, still has her position and benefits, her university has not recalled her degree.  Mr. Churchill, who committed no such offense, does not.

The Supreme Court of the State of Colorado, while admitting that Mr. Churchill was fired illegally, ruled that the board of regents at the university has a "quasi-governmental" protection from civil or criminal actions.

Excuse me? Meanwhile, the Court also said it would not order Mr. Churchill's reinstatement, despite the finding of fault with the University of Colorado.

This summer, the Supreme Court of the United States turned down Mr. Churchill's case.

Looking back over these events from the distance of a decade away--and long after the post 9-11 world of the Bush Administration--one can only shake one's head.

For while they got rid of Mr. Churchill, none of his detractors were ever able to dispute the truth of what he said.

And be it indigenous, minority, poor, or the marginalized, nothing looks any better for the forgotten and forcibly silenced people of America today, than it did in 2005.

In fact, it's far worse...

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