Churchill: Career and Statements
By Joseph Wilson
February 13, 2005
Ward Churchill is Professor of Ethnic Studies and former chairman of the Ethnic Studies program at the University of Colorado at Boulder, as well as a delegate to the United Nations Working Group on Indigenous Populations. Churchill was born in 1948, served in Vietnam, and received B.A. and M.A. degrees from Sangamon State (now the University of Illinois at Springfield), a then-experimental college with indifferent curricula and tenuous standards. Despite his modest academic credentials, insufficient ordinarily to procure employment at a technical college, Churchill parlayed a fictionalized Native American ethnicity into a job at Colorado, arguably committing fraud by claiming to be Native American on his EEOC report (the fraudulent claim was repeated in 1990, when Churchill moved from the Communications Department at UC to the Ethnic Studies program: Churchill may face termination for the fraud after appropriate review). For all his claims, Churchill has never been able to produce proof of more than an associate membership in the Keetowah Cherokee tribe (purchased in 1994 only two weeks before the tribe stopped granting such designations, and long after he had been claiming Native American status to prop up his career) to support his claims, and investigations by Rocky Mountain News and others have been unable to determine that Churchill has any Native American ancestry.
Churchill’s Vietnam service has raised questions as well. In Churchill’s own recently published statements, as he has tried to back away from the ramifications of his support of the 9/11 terrorists, Churchill has claimed to denounce violence on the grounds that he saw enough of it in Vietnam. Recent evidence suggests that he drove heavy equipment trucks in Vietnam, although some Internet sites are claiming that Churchill was a counter-intelligent officer.
Churchill’s engagement with terrorist activity is of long standing. He claimed in a 1987 interview to have instructed the Weathermen in bomb-building. In 1983, he met Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi in Libya, a clear violation of U.S. law, which forebade travel to Libya until fairly recently.
Churchill began teaching at Colorado University in 1978 as a Lecturer in Native American Studies; he received tenure as an associate professor of Native American studies in 1990.
His alleged research has been essentially a litany of complaints voiced by what Harold Bloom, inter alios, aptly termed “the School of Resentment.” Churchill has falsified claims in support of his argument that the U.S. committed genocide against Native Americans, including an untrue assertion that U.S. soldiers used smallpox-infected blankets to eliminate the Mandan tribe in 1837 (a similar incident did occur, but by the British Army under Lord Amherst in 1763). Churchill has been accused of plagiarism, distortion, and simply fabricating evidence in other writings on the legal claims of indigenous Americans. Churchill has lain bare his impoverished knowledge of world history in his claims that the wars of Christian West against Islamic East began with the Crusades, apparently ignorant of the fact that Islam began as a ruthlessly expansionistic military enterprise that, from its beginnings in Saudi Arabia, quickly expanded through conquest and massacre across what was then Christian Egypt and North Africa into Christian, Visigothic Spain and across the Pyrenees into France; in the East, across what was then largely Christianized Arabia and Syria into the Byzantine Empire. He has written in defense of Black Panthers and cop killers, arguing, for example, that even if Black Panthers Edward Poindexter and David Rice were guilty of the 1970 murder of an Omaha police officer, they have spent enough time in jail as it is. Churchill is active in the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee, serving as national spokesman for the man convicted in the killing of two FBI agents. Churchill routinely leads the Denver American Indian Movement protest of Columbus Day celebrations in that city and has been arrested several times.
But Churchill’s most notorious statements have involved the 9/11 attacks and a running critique of American culture and alleged acts of American Imperialism. In a widely quoted essay later published as a book, On the Justice of Roosting Chickens, Churchill called the victims of the 9/11 attacks “little Eichmans,” a clear comparison of the World Trade Center victims to Adolf Eichman, organizer of the Wannsee Conference and Hitler’s “Final Solution.” (In a recent interview, Churchill clarified that infants, janitors, and others were not “technicians of empire” but rather “collateral damage.”) Churchill has also declared that American citizens are, morally, equivalent to what German citizens were during the Third Reich, in that both endorse genocide. (He used U.N. numbers, known to be inflated, for the deaths of Iraqi children and Palestinians in order to augment his claims of a systematic genocide conducted by the U.S. against foreign populations.) He praised the 9/11 terrorists for their courage, commitment, planning and tactics. He referred to the attacks as “reality therapy” for Americans, and accused Madeleine Albright, Colin Powell, Bill Clinton, and the elder George Bush of being war criminals; in subsequent interviews and writings he has added George W. Bush to the list.
In a 2004 interview with the leftist journal Satya, Churchill suggested that more 9/11s would be necessary to destabilize the U.S. government. He has advocated the use of violence to change U.S. foreign policy and has declared as his fondest wish that the U.S. be abolished and taken off the planet forever. Churchill was recently disinvited from a speaking appearance at Hamilton College and was stripped of the chairmanship of the Ethnic Studies Program at Colorado. The faculty of the University of Colorado has expressed its support for Churchill, as has the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center, the American Association of University Professors, and the ACLU.