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June 4, 2005 [feather]
Churchill tried in the media

The University of Colorado is investigating scholar-activist Ward Churchill--and, in the manner of all things academic, it is doing so slowly and secretly. In the meantime, The Rocky Mountain News has obligingly conducted its own parallel investigation of Churchill's academic integrity. The results, published today, are as disturbing as they are unsurprising:

Churchill has framed the CU investigation not as a look at the rigor and accuracy of his scholarship, but as a right-wing crusade and an attack on academic freedom and free speech.

While it is likely to be months before the university's faculty committee finishes its probe of Churchill's scholarship and ancestry, the News found serious problems in all four of the major areas the panel is examining:

  • He accused the U.S. Army of deliberately spreading smallpox among the Mandan Indians of the Upper Missouri River Valley in 1837--but there's no basis for the assertion in the sources he cited. In fact, in some instances the books he cited--and their authors--directly contradict his assertions.
  • He published an essay in 1992 that largely copies the work of a Canadian professor. But the piece is credited to his own research organization, the Institute for Natural Progress. Churchill published that essay--with some minor changes and subtle altering of words--even though the writer, Fay G. Cohen, had withdrawn permission for him to use it.

    He also published portions of an essay in a 1993 book that closely resemble a piece that appeared the year before under the byline of Rebecca L. Robbins. However, the News could not determine what occurred. Churchill said he initially wrote the piece and allowed Robbins to publish it under her name. Robbins did not return numerous messages left by the News.

    The News also could not determine who actually wrote an essay published under the name of Churchill's former wife, Marie Anne Jaimes, who also goes by Annette Jaimes. A paragraph from that essay also was published in a Churchill essay.

  • He mischaracterized an important federal Indian law in repeated writings in the past two decades, saying that the General Allotment Act of 1887 established a "blood quantum" standard that allowed tribes to admit members only if they had at least "half" native blood. Churchill has accused the government of imposing what he called "a formal eugenics code" as part of a thinly veiled effort to define Indians out of existence. The News found that the law--while a legislative low point in Indian history that resulted in many tribes losing their lands--does not contain any requirements for Indian bloodlines.

    In addition, the News found, Churchill similarly mischaracterized a more recent piece of legislation, the Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990.

  • He has repeatedly claimed to have American Indian ancestry, but an extensive examination of genealogical records that traced branches of both sides of Churchill's family to pre-Revolutionary War times turned up no solid evidence of a single Indian ancestor. In addition, the News found that DNA tests taken last year by two brothers prove that the father of Joshua Tyner--Joshua Tyner is the ancestor Churchill most often has cited for his Indian lineage--was not Indian.

    During its investigation, the News also unearthed other evidence of possible research misconduct by Churchill that has not been taken to the faculty committee.

    In one instance, the News discovered an obscure 1972 pamphlet written by activists in Canada that Churchill later began claiming as his own work.

    And in at least three other cases, the News revealed Friday, he published works by others without their permission. Churchill credited authors Robert T. Coulter, Rudolph C. Ryser and Elizabeth Cook-Lynn, but didn't notify them that he was publishing their articles.

The News will address each of these points in detail in a four-part series to be published from Monday through Thursday of next week.

posted on June 4, 2005 10:11 AM


Fascinating. I love that someone is actually going to deal with the facts concerning this fellow and not rely on political characterizations. Go News!

Posted by: RP at June 4, 2005 1:26 PM

I think that the AIM was even hacked off at this clown for claiming First American lineage.

Posted by: scott at June 5, 2005 9:36 AM

(AIM has been hacked off at Churchill for some time)

I still say based on my experience with CU-Boulder, having had to visit CU and Non-CU facilities in that town and having worked with people CU-B has institutionally screwed, that CU-B and Churchill deserve each other. Even people to the left of me (way left) say they want to drive a Hummer, eat veal and wear fur right down the middle of the Pearl Street Mall. No jury would convict.

Posted by: Bill at June 6, 2005 10:18 AM

(AIM has been hacked off at Churchill for some time)

I think the story is that there's multiple splinter factions claiming to be the "real" AIM. Churchill is in with one of those factions and the others denounce him.

Posted by: JSinger at June 6, 2005 11:19 AM

"I think the story is that there's multiple splinter factions claiming to be the "real" AIM. Churchill is in with one of those factions and the others denounce him."

"Will the real ersatz Native American please stand up..."

Posted by: Bill at June 7, 2005 10:55 AM

JSinger is right about the AIM.Today the reason to become an Indian is to cash in on casinos.

Posted by: scott at June 8, 2005 2:57 AM