Tuesday, February 08, 2005


Ward Churchill - Academic Fraud?

Now I wasn't planning on writing more about Ward Churchill, but more and more keeps coming to light.

Bad scholarship is one of them - check out the article The Genocide That Wasn’t: Ward Churchill’s Research Fraud by Thomas Brown Assistant Professor of Sociology at Lamar University.

Other things have come to light. AIM and other groups have repudiated Churchill's claim to be Native American. AIM has a press release available on it here.

The relatives of his now deceased second wife complain about his obvious lack of knowledge of their tribe, and how he presented her and her people in some of his writings. Read it here.

Indian Country Today
quotes various tribal groups saying this:

According to Jodi Rave, a well-known Native journalist and member of the Mandan-Hidatsa-Arikara Three Affiliated Tribes, Churchill was enrolled as an ''associate member'' of the Keetoowah by a former chairman who was later impeached. The one other known member of the same program, since discontinued, was President Bill Clinton. Rave said that she made this discovery as a student in a journalism class at the University of Colorado. She was also in a class taught by Churchill. When her article came out, she said, he dropped her grade from an A to a C minus.

Suzan Shown Harjo, a columnist for ICT who has tracked Churchill's career, said that aside from the in-laws of his late Indian wife, he has not been able to produce any relatives from any Indian tribe.

Beyond the question of his personal identity is the question of his standing to represent Indian opinion, not only on 9/11 but also in his other published works. Mohawk ironworkers helped build the World Trade Center and other monuments of the New York City skyline, and one crew was actually at work in the flight path of the plane that struck the second tower. St. Regis Mohawk Chief James Ransom noted that they joined rescue teams at great personal risk.

Churchill's other writings repudiate not only the U.S. but also most Indian tribal institutions. In one 1994 essay, he described tribal self government as a ''cruel hoax'' carried out by ''puppets'' of ''an advanced colonial setting.'' He equated the status of Indian tribes in the U.S. to that of European colonies in Asia and Africa. His analysis reflected an extreme version of European left-wing ideology.

Far from suffering for his views, Churchill appears to have been sought out by many in the universities as a representative of American Indian thinking. But to many Native intellectuals, he is traveling under false pretenses, both in his ideology and his personal identity.

Paul Campos , law professor at the University of Colorado notes:

Consider: Churchill has constructed his entire academic career around the claim that he is a Native American, yet it turns out there is no evidence, other than his own statements, that this is the case.

Churchill has said at various times that he is either one-sixteenth or three-sixteenths Cherokee, yet genealogical reporting by the Rocky Mountain News and others has failed to turn up any Cherokee ancestors - or any other Native Americans - in Churchill's family tree.

Why should we care one way or another? We should care because Churchill has used his supposed Indian heritage to bully his way into academia. Indeed Churchill lacks what are normally considered the minimum requirements for a tenure-track job at a research university: he never earned a doctorate, and his only degrees are a bachelor's and a master's from a then-obscure Illinois college.

Churchill's lack of conventional academic credentials was apparently compensated for, at least in part in the eyes of those who hired him at the University of Colorado, by the "fact" that he contributed to the ethnic diversity of the school's tenure-track faculty.

To the extent that Churchill was hired because he claimed to be a Native American, he would seem to be guilty of academic fraud....

Similar charges [of academic fraud] have been leveled against Churchill by University of New Mexico law professor John Lavelle, a Native American scholar who has documented what appear to be equally fraudulent claims on Churchill's part regarding the General Allotment Act, one of the most important federal laws dealing with Indian lands. (Lavelle also accuses Churchill of plagiarism).

Churchill is an example of what happens when political bias becomes more important than academic honesty or searching for the truth. And cases like this undermine the goals and purposes of higher education. During the Stalinist era, people who didn't have the "right" interpretation of science didn't advance in the old Soviet Union, even though it probably set back some of the research by years. Ethics demands a certain level of behavior, and unfortunately, Mr. Churchill seems to be an example of bad ethics in action.

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?