Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Ward LeRoy Churchill (born October 2, 1947) is an American writer, academic, and activist. He is currently a tenured professor of ethnic studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder. The author of many books and essays, Churchill is highly outspoken on Native American issues and US foreign policy. Churchill became nationally known in 2005 when talk show host Bill O'Reilly lambasted him for an essay he wrote immediately following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. This kicked off a media frenzy, which then expanded to include examinations of Churchill's ethnic heritage, his academic qualifications and other writings, and his activities as an American Indian activist. Churchill's claim to partial American Indian descent is disputed by various Native American groups.
Early life and education
Churchill was born and grew up in a blue-collar family in Elmwood, Illinois. His parents, Maralyn and Jack Churchill, divorced while Ward was still a toddler. In March 1950, his mother married Henry Carlton Debo, an employee of Caterpillar in nearby Peoria. Churchill has two half-brothers, Tom and Danny, and a half-sister, Terry. Churchill often stayed with his grandparents for months at at time. When Ward enrolled in Elmwood High School, he went by the name Ward Debo, taking his stepfather's surname. However, when he graduated in 1965, he was listed in his yearbook, the Ulmus, as Ward L. Churchill.
He was drafted by the US Army and saw active service in Vietnam from 1966 to 1968. Churchill's military records, as obtained by the press through the Freedom of Information Act, show his training to have been as a projectionist and light truck driver. Churchill later received his B.A. and M.A. from Sangamon State University (now the University of Illinois at Springfield).
As a scholar, Churchill has written on Native-American history and culture, and is particularly outspoken about what he considers the genocide inflicted on the indigenous peoples of North America by European settlers, repression which he argues continues to this day.
In Fantasies of the Master Race (1992), Churchill examined the portrayals of Native Americans and the use of Native American symbols in popular American culture. He focused on such phenomena as Tony Hillerman's mystery novels, the film Dances with Wolves, and the New Age movement, frequently finding what he sees as examples of cultural imperialism and exploitation at work. Churchill calls author Carlos Castaneda (who claims to reveal the teachings of a Yaqui Indian shaman) the "greatest hoax since Piltdown Man."
Churchill's Indians 'R' Us (1993), a sequel to Fantasies of the Master Race, further explores Indian issues in popular culture and politics. He examines the movie Black Robe, the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation killings, 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 against what he characterizes as New Age exploitations of shamanism and Native American sacred traditions and what he scorns as the "do-it-yourself Indianism" of certain contemporary authors.
Struggle For The Land (reissued 2002) is a collection of essays in which Churchill asserts that the US government systematically exploited native land and permitted the killing or displacement of the Native American peoples who once inhabited it. He details Indian efforts in the 19th and 20th centuries to defend the land from defoliation, strip-mining and other destructive practices.
Churchill's A Little Matter of Genocide (1998) is a historical survey of systematic ethnic cleansing from 1492 to the present. He compares the treatment of North American Indians to other genocides in history, such as the ones in Cambodia and Armenia, and that of Gypsies, Poles and Jews by the Nazis.
In Perversions of Justice (2002), Churchill argues that the US 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 US, but later adapted for application abroad, and demonstrates, he argues, the development of America's "imperial logic" which depends on a "corrupt form of legalism" to establish colonial control and empire.
Churchill has also written several books on US state oppression. In Agents of Repression (1988), co-authored by Jim Vander Wall, the authors describe what they term "the 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 (reissued 2002), also with Jim Vander Wall, examines a series of original FBI memos that detail the bureau's activities against leftist groups suspected by the Bureau of engaging in violence, from the Communist Party in the 1950s to the Central America solidarity movement in the 1980s.
9/11 essay controversy
Churchill wrote an essay about the 9/11 terrorist attacks in which he focused on American foreign policy actions which he argues provoked and justified the attacks. His critics reject the notion that anything could have provoked or justified the killing of 3000 innocent victims. The piece was later incorporated into a book, On the Justice of Roosting Chickens. (The "roosting chickens" phrase comes from Malcolm X's equally controversial comment relating to the assassination of president John F. Kennedy that Kennedy "never foresaw that the chickens would come home to roost so soon.")
In the essay, which subsequently became the focus of significant criticism and controversy, he compared Americans to the "good Germans" of Nazi Germany. Churchill contends that the vast majority of Americans completely ignored the civilian suffering caused by the sanctions on Iraq during the 1990s. He characterized these sanctions as a policy of genocide, and repeatedly referred to their effect upon the children of Iraq.
In addition to the impact of the Iraq sanctions, Churchill argues that the Middle East policy of President Lyndon Johnson and the history of Crusades against the Islamic world contributed to the "provocations."
- As for those in the World Trade Center, well, really, let's get a grip here, shall we? True enough, they were civilians of a sort. But innocent? Gimme a break. They 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.
He said those killed in the attacks "were too busy braying, incessantly and self-importantly, into their cell phones, arranging power lunches and stock transactions, each of which translated, conveniently out of sight, mind and smelling distance, into the starved and rotting flesh of infants. 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." 
In January of 2005, attention was drawn to the essay after he was invited to speak at Hamilton College as a member of a panel titled "Limits of Dissent". The text was then quoted on the January 28 2005 edition of the Fox News Channel program The O'Reilly Factor. Bill O'Reilly initiated a campaign against Churchill imploring his viewers to e-mail the college. A flood of 6,000 e-mails resulted. In the ensuing uproar, the lecture was changed to a larger venue, but then was ultimately cancelled by president Joan Stewart due to "credible threats of violence".
In response to what Churchill called "grossly inaccurate media coverage concerning [his] analysis of the September 11, 2001 attacks" Churchill clarified his views:
- I am not a "defender" of the September 11 attacks, but simply pointing out that if U.S. foreign policy results in massive death and destruction abroad, we cannot feign innocence when some of that destruction is returned. I have never said that people "should" engage in armed attacks on the United States, but that such attacks are a natural and unavoidable consequence of unlawful U.S. policy. As Martin Luther King, quoting Robert F. Kennedy, said, "Those who make peaceful change impossible make violent change inevitable".
He continues later:
- It is not disputed that the Pentagon was a military target, or that a CIA office was situated in the World Trade Center. Following the logic by which U.S. Defense Department spokespersons have consistently sought to justify target selection in places like Baghdad, this placement of an element of the American "command and control infrastructure" in an ostensibly civilian facility converted the Trade Center itself into a "legitimate" target. Again following U.S. military doctrine, as announced in briefing after briefing, those who did not work for the CIA but were nonetheless killed in the attack amounted to no more than "collateral damage". If the U.S. public is prepared to accept these "standards" when they are routinely applied to other people, they should not be surprised when the same standards are applied to them. 
Following the report on Fox, Churchill became a focus of national attention. On January 31, 2005 he resigned as chairman of the Ethnic Studies department at University of Colorado but remains a tenured professor. A special meeting of the Board of Regents of the University of Colorado was held on Thursday, February 3, 2005, to discuss the case. Colorado Republican governor Bill Owens and other Democrat and Republican state lawmakers have publicly called for his dismissal. Churchill's supporters among the faculty and student body claim that allegations against Churchill are a pretext to discredit a notable liberal academic, which they say undermines freedom of speech, academic freedom, and ethnic studies departments nationwide.
The Colorado House of Representatives, with unanimous support from Republicans and Democrats, adopted a resolution condemning Churchill's statements about 9/11.
The Board of Regents of the University of Colorado, meeting in executive session at The Fitzsimons campus of the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center on February 3 2005, adopted a resolution apologizing to the American people for Churchill's statements regarding the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and ratifying Interim Chancellor Phil DiStefano's review of Churchill's actions. He was directed to investigate whether Churchill overstepped his bounds as a faculty member, whether his actions are cause for dismissal, and whether his writings are protected by the First Amendment.
In response to Churchill's speech being cancelled at Hamilton, Hawaiian Studies Professor and Hawaiian Sovereignty movement member Haunani-Kay Trask invited him to speak at the University of Hawaii on February 22 2005, where Churchill responded to his critics and argued for academic freedom and free speech.
A fellow professor at the University of Colorado, Emma Perez, alleges that attacks against Ward Churchill are an organized "test case" by neo-conservatives to stifle liberal criticism of the War on Terror and to directly undermine the funding of ethnic studies departments nationwide. .
The Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights gave an honorable mention award to Churchill's volume in 2004 (prior to the controversy), and has defended Churchill's right to free speech. 
Churchill has been active in the Denver breakaway chapter of the American Indian Movement since at least 1984. In 1993, he and other local AIM leaders — including Russell Means, Glen Morris , Bob Robideau and David Hill — broke with the national AIM leadership, especially Clyde Bellecourt and Vernon Bellecourt , claiming that all AIM chapters are autonomous. This schism continues, with the AIM claiming that the local AIM leaders are tools of the government being used against Indians. Churchill has been a leader of Colorado AIM's annual protests in Denver against the Columbus Day holiday and its associated parade. These protests have brought Colorado AIM's leadership into conflict with some leaders in the Denver Italian-American community, the main supporters of the parade. Churchill and other protesters have been arrested several times in relation to acts of civil disobedience, such as blocking the parade.
After the 9/11 essay controversy arose, additional allegations and controversies emerged and became the subject of debate in the media and on internet blogs. This included disputes over his claim of partial Native American heritage and allegations of academic fraud and plagiarism. University of Colorado administrators have ordered an investigation into the allegations of plagiarism, which is currently in progress. He has also been accused of intimidating his colleagues.
Many leaders in the Native American community and in the American Indian Movement have publicly disputed Churchill's claim of partial Indian heritage. Churchill has stated that he was less than one-quarter Indian , that he was an associate member of the Keetoowah tribe , not being qualified to be a full member, and that as such has had his genealogy vetted by the enrollment office. In an article in Socialism and Democracy magazine, he 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 ." 
However, the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians rejects his claim of membership and has stated publicly that Ward Churchill is not a member of their tribe.  Many Native American tribes require someone to be of at least one quarter tribe ancestry to join. The Keetoowah Band does not recognize associate members as members of the Keetoowah band; their requirements specifically state "a person must be 1/4 degree of Cherokee Indian ancestry or above to be a member of the United Keetoowah Band" , a qualification which Churchill does not meet.
Ernestine Berry , who was "on the tribe's Keetoowah Band enrollment committee and served on the tribal council for four years," stated, "He was trying to get recognized as an Indian. He could not prove he was an Indian (Cherokee) at all."  Suzan Shown Harjo , a Hodulgee Muscogee Creek/Cheyenne Indian and well-known Indian activist who has known Churchill for fifteen years, said she has discussed with Churchill his claims of being a Creek Indian. She has indicated that Churchill could not name his family members that are enrolled in the Creek Tribe.   David Cornsilk , a Cherokee researcher, has searched the Cherokee Nation and Keetoowah tribal rolls and according to his research there is not a listing on any of these rolls of Churchill. Creek-Cherokee historian Robert W. Trepp did not find Churchill's family members on the Muscogee (Creek) Nation rolls. 
The Denver Post reported that a review of Churchill matrilineal genealogy on Ancestry.com shows no evidence of Native American ancestry going back to his great-great-grandparents. Based on Census and Social Security Administration records all matrilineal ancestors of Ward Churchill are listed either as "White" or as "race unknown" .
Dennis Banks, an Anishinabe Indian and a co-founder of AIM, and the national leadership of AIM have issued press releases on a number of occasions over the years stating that Churchill does not represent the American Indian Movement and is not an Indian. 
In an interview in The Rocky Mountain News Churchill himself stated: "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". 
It is not unusual for Americans who have some Native American blood, but whose families live within the mainstream community and who know their heritage only from family tradition, to encounter difficulty proving their ethnicity to the satisfaction of administrators of affirmative action programs   .
The National Review's John J. Miller argues that ethnic impersonations of Native Americans are rampant.  There has been speculation that if Churchill was hired by the University of Colorado partly because of ethnic background, he might be fired should it be proved he lied about his ancestry. His supporters argue that the problems the university has with Churchill are based on his political statements, not questions regarding his ethnicity. Others argue that an assertion of Native American ancestry without the ability to prove it might be a material misrepresentation and grounds for termination .
Allegations of fraud and plagiarism
In the article "The Genocide That Wasn't: Ward Churchill's Research Fraud", sociology professor Thomas Brown accuses Churchill of academic fraud by fabricating an incident in which the US Army purportedly deliberately infected Mandan Indians with smallpox in 1837. Brown's article argues that the sources Churchill cites do not support what Churchill claims in his piece on the alleged genocide, stating that it was Lord Jeffrey Amherst, a British General and Commander-in-Chief in North America during the finale of the French and Indian War, who suggested this plan in 1763, more than a decade before the United States government existed.
In two articles published in the 1990s, University of New Mexico law professor John LaVelle alleged that Churchill fraudulently made false claims about the General Allotment Act . LaVelle also accuses Churchill of plagiarism.
Recently, allegations reappeared that Churchill plagiarized the work of professor Fay G. Cohen of Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia. An internal Dalhousie University report concludes that "The article ... is, in the opinion of our legal counsel, plagiarism," Dalhousie spokesman Charles Crosby said, summarizing the report's findings in an interview with the Rocky Mountain News. 
In addition, there are allegations that "Winter Attack", a 1981 serigraph signed by Ward Churchill, may be a copyright infringement of a 1972 drawing by Thomas E. Mails . News coverage, and a comparison of the works in question
Other controversial statements
In an April 2004 interview with Satya magazine, Churchill said:
- "If I defined the state as being the problem, just what happens to the state? I've never fashioned myself to be a revolutionary, but it's part and parcel of what I'm talking about. You can create through consciousness a situation of flux, perhaps, in which something better can replace it. In instability there's potential. That's about as far as I go with revolutionary consciousness. I'm actually a de-evolutionary. I don't want other people in charge of the apparatus of the state as the outcome of a socially transformative process that replicates oppression. I want the state gone: transform the situation to U.S. out of North America. U.S. off the planet. Out of existence altogether." 
Colorado governor Bill Owens labeled these comments "treasonous", arguing that "Churchill has clearly called for violence against the state, and no country is required to subsidize its own destruction. That's what we're doing with Ward Churchill." On February 6 2005, the Denver Post reported that these comments would be included in the review of Churchill's tenure.  An investigation into allegations of plagiarism started by adminstrators at the University of Colorado is currently in progress.
- Marxism and Native Americans / edited by Ward Churchill, ISBN 0896081788
- Pacifism as Pathology: Reflections on the role of armed struggle, ISBN 1902593588.
- Agents of Repression: The FBI's secret wars against the Black Panther Party and the American Indian Movement by Ward Churchill, James Vanderwall, ISBN 0896082938.
- The COINTELPRO Papers : Documents from the FBI's secret wars against domestic dissent / by Ward Churchill and Jim Vander Wall, ISBN 0896083594
- ' ' Indians Are Us? : Culture and Genocide in Native North America , ISBN 1567510205
- ' ' Since Predator Came : Notes from the Struggle for American Indian Liberation , 1883930030
- From A Native Son: Selected Essays on Indigenism 1985-1995, ISBN 0896085538.
- Kill the Indian, Save the Man: The genocidal impact of American Indian residential schools, ISBN 0872864340.
Audio and video
- Doing Time: The Politics of Imprisonment
- Life In Occupied America
- In A Pig's Eye: Reflections on the Police State, Repression, and Native America
- US Off The Planet!: An Evening In Eugene With Ward Churchill And Chellis Glendinning
- Pacifism and Pathology in the American Left
- Z Mag Ward Churchill Audio
- Ward Churchill talking at the University of Colorado, 2/9/2005, search the C-Span website
- Churchill Speaks About Academic Freedom - Free Speech Radio News February 09, 2005
- Ward Churchill Under Fire - Free Speech Radio News, February 03, 2005
- The Justice of Roosting Chickens: Ward Churchill Speaks The Pacifica Network Show, Democracy Now! from February 18th, 2005 features extended Audio/Video exclusive interview with Churchill
- Ward Churchill's Faculty page at University of Colorado
- Author profile, AK Press
- Author profile, South End Press
- Ward Churchill ZNet Homepage
- Victor Davis Hanson, The Seven Faces of Ward Churchill, National Review
- "The General Allotment Act "Eligibility" Hoax: Distortions of Law, Policy, and History in Derogation of Indian Tribes" (by John P. LaVelle) (PDF file)
Articles related to 9/11 essay controversy
- Churchill's answer to criticism of his 9/11 remarks
- "CU prof's essay sparks dispute: Ward Churchill says 9/11 victims were not innocent people" (Rocky Mountain News)
- "Some People Push Back"
- "Take a Good Look at Kirkland Project"
- "College Cancels Speech by Professor Who Disparaged 9/11 Attack Victims" (New York Times, February 2 2005)
- "Professor resigns chair after 9/11 essay prompts protests" (CNN, January 31, 2005)
- Ward Churchill Press Statement (Denver Post, February 01, 2005)
- ABC News/Associated Press Colo. Regents Weigh Prof's 9/11 Comments January 30, 2005
- Corrected remarks from University of Hawaii speech
- Hamilton College Statement
- "CU leader chills speech" (by Jon Caldara, OpEd, February 27, 2005
- "Speakout: Protecting Churchill protects us all"
- "Professor Ward Churchill, The First Amendment and Free Speech on Campus" (Capitalism Magazine)
- Complete Text "Some People Push Back: On the Justice of Roosting Chickens" (Orlando Direct Action: Florida-based anarchist group)
- Complete Text "Some People Push Back: On the Justice of Roosting Chickens" (Kerspledeb.com: Canadian distributor of radical T-shirts and buttons)
- Incomplete Text Some People Push Back September 12, 2001
- Professor Stoolpigeon,
- "No License to Lie" (a legal case for firing Churchill)
- Text of Colorado State House resolution Ward Churchill (Associated Press/Denver Post, February 02, 2005)
Disputes over Churchill's ethnicity
- Indian Country Today Editorial, February 3, 2005
- Keetoowah band's statement that Churchill is not a member of their tribe
- Dennis Banks, the founder of the American Indian Movement, claims that Ward Churchill is not truly Indian
- Suzan Shown Harjo on "Why Native identity matters: A cautionary tale"
- Indian Country Today editorial on Churchill's claimed identity, February 10, 2005
- Rocky Mountain News article on Churchill's hhite heritage, February 5, 2005
- Jodi Rave article in Rapid City Journal, "Free Speech for Fake Indian"
- Paul Campos, Rocky Mountain News: "Truth Tricky for Churchill"
- UKB: Churchill was Honorary Member
- Marty Two Bulls: Churchill's Indian Kit
- Marty Two Bulls: Leave us Indians Out of It
- Denver Post: "Research by Post Finds no Indian Background to Churchill"
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