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February 03, 2005

Tribal Input

Indian Country Today is an unabashedly liberal and pro-Indian newspaper. They support sovereignty, repurchase of land to expand tribal sovereignty, have editorialized in appreciation of Bill Moyers, endorsed John Kerry and Tom Daschle, and have no love for their image of Christian conservatives.

Interestingly, it disapproves of the tactics of local Coloradoans in opposing Columbus Day, while approving of the basic message and beating up on our favority columnist, David Harsanyi. The column blamed Vernon Bellecourt for the tenor of the protests, prompting a reply to the effect that "Bellecourt wasn't here; we did this all on our own." Apparently Bellecourt has got a somewhat Jesse-Jacksonish reputation in American Indian circles.

Which brings us to their appraisal of Ward Churchill. Basically, they throw Mr. Churchill under the bus in a way that puts the CU faculty to shame, although they also defend his keeping his job on First Amendment grounds:

The nature of Churchill's decidedly offensive remarks, however, forces us to critique in general the injurious approach to scholarship and basic human decency. We defend the right to broadcast and publish, but propose it is reprehensible to excoriate innocent human beings who have suffered great loss by rubbing salt in deep wounds simply to prove a political point and simply to strike (one more time) a political posture on behalf of the far left and under the guise of American Indian sentiment. Wrapped intimately with American Indian themes in his writings and lectures, and shielded apparently by his own American Indian Movement (AIM) security team, Churchill projects the image of the quintessential American Indian activist and/or warrior - angry, defiant, insulting, forceful and accusatory. Churchill sometimes captures the historical truth of a thing, but only to load it like deadly ammunition into his ideological machine gun...

Being in the crucible of hostility is not new to the chip-on-the-shoulder professor, who has become a celebrity for jumping into the polemic melee over issues big and small, internal and external to the Native world. Even in the question of personal identity, the professor's position is controversial. Churchill's Indian status is not verifiable in the usual ways of checking into tribal membership. We are expansive here from a national position on recognized and non-recognized tribes, southern nations and global indigenous people, but the question of relations and proper belonging in the tribal circles in the United States and Canada is generally verifiable for Indian observers and such appears to be completely lacking in Churchill's case. He has claimed membership in the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee, but reliable representatives from the tribe deny Churchill is or ever was, or has blood relatives on their rolls. He was granted an ''associate certificate'' by a former leader of the tribe (later impeached) for services supposedly rendered, not due to blood relations - but even the tribe declines to exactly identify what that means...

In the Native Studies field, Churchill has been one of those scholar-spokesmen who lead with the idea that Indian peoples are best served by constantly pushing the button of contradiction and the memory of every ill that has ever been inflicted against the tribes. To endlessly cite the misdeeds of the American Empire - while layering the legend of Nazi Germany over it - has the constant method of the Churchill scholarship...

There's more.

Posted by joshuasharf at February 3, 2005 11:11 AM | TrackBack

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