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Colorado Regents probe Churchill's record

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BOULDER, Colo. - Ward Churchill's controversy continues to flame, but the
focus is shifting away from questions about his personal Indian identity to
a formal look at his academic record.

At a special University of Colorado Board of Regents meeting Feb. 3,
Chancellor Phil DiStefano announced that he and two University deans would
launch a "thorough examination of Professor Churchill's writings, speeches,
tape recordings and other works" to see if he had overstepped the bounds of
proper faculty conduct. DiStefano said the review would provide due process
for a decision whether to fire Churchill, a tenured professor.

Meanwhile, Churchill has been rallying student support. Speaking to an
audience of more than 1,000 Feb. 8, he said he owed "no one an apology" for
his three-year-old essay expressing loathing for at least some of the
victims of the 9/11 terror attacks. Churchill, a leader of the Colorado
AIM, appeared with an entourage of about 100, including former American
Indian Movement colleague Russell Means. Reports said the students,
predominantly non-Indian, responded with "wild applause."

Reaction to Churchill in Indian country has been quite the opposite. Two
founders of AIM, Dennis Banks and Clyde Bellecourt - for decades, bitter
critics of Churchill - released a statement denouncing him and his 9/11
essay in the name of the AIM Grand Governing Council. According to the Feb.
3 statement, AIM "is vehemently and emphatically repudiating and condemning
the outrageous statements made by academic literary and Indian fraud Ward
Churchill in relationship to the 9/11 tragedy in New York City that claimed
thousands of innocent peoples' lives."

The statement read: "Ward Churchill has been masquerading as an Indian for
years behind his dark glasses and beaded headband ... He has deceitfully
and treacherously fooled innocent and naive Indian community members in
Denver, Colorado as well as many other people worldwide. Churchill does not
represent, nor does he speak on behalf of, the American Indian."

The United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee in Oklahoma repudiated Churchill's
one claim to tribal affiliation, an honorary associate membership issued by
a former chief in 1993. Chief George G. Wickliffe said the Band "has no
association with Churchill in any capacity whatsoever and considers his
comments offensive," adding that his essay "does not in any way reflect the
true compassion for the victims of the World Trade Center and their
families that is felt by the United Keetoowah Band."

The University of Colorado is also hearing from Indian country scholars
whose previous protests against Churchill's appointment fell on deaf ears.
The three-person panel reviewing Churchill's work is receiving studies that
accuse him of fabricating evidence for his academic writing and even of
plagiarism. At least one member of the UC faculty has also questioned why
the University hired and promoted Churchill in the first place.

Before resigning the post at the onset of the controversy, Churchill was
chairman of the University's Ethnic Studies department. He still retains a
$94,242-a-year tenured professorship.

"Indeed," wrote UC Law Professor Paul Campos in a newspaper column,
"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.

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

Campos cites two articles, now available on the Internet, that document
separate instances in which Churchill allegedly invented evidence out of
whole cloth to support polemics against U.S. and tribal governments. One,
by Thomas Brown, assistant professor of Sociology at Lamar University,
charges that Churchill simply made up a story that the U.S. Army
deliberately caused a devastating 1837 smallpox epidemic in the upper
Plains by distributing infected blankets to the Mandan Tribe.

Although documents exist to show that the English Lord Amherst approved
such a strategy - one of the earliest examples of biological warfare - in
the mid-18th century, Brown wrote that none of Churchill's citations
supported his charge against the U.S. Army and in fact showed the contrary:
that the 1837 epidemic was a natural disaster. Yet, said Brown, Churchill
not only repeated the story but also embellished in a series of writings.

The article is available at http://hal.lamar.edu/~browntf /Churchilll.htm.

Likewise, University of New Mexico Law Professor John P. LaVelle published
an article in the spring 1999 "Wicazo Sa Review" tracking Churchill's false
assertion that the General Allotment Act of 1887 included blood quantum
requirements. LaVelle found that the statement, unsupported by any
evidence, appeared in 18 of Churchill's writings. He described it as part
of Churchill's "propaganda-driven attack on tribal self-determination."

In addition, a lengthy footnote described several apparent instances of
plagiarism in the 1992 essay collection, "The State of Native America:
Genocide, Colonization and Resistance," published in the Race and
Resistance Series of South End Press, Boston. (The pattern is somewhat
complicated, since LaVelle concluded that Churchill had also provided
language for his collaborators in the volume.)

A link to the article appears on LaVelle's University of New Mexico Web
site at http://lawschool.unm.edu/faculty/lavelle/publications.htm.

Charges such as these will be grist for the University of Colorado review
mill over the next 30 days. As DiStefano described it at the tumultuous
Board of Regents meeting, it would consider two questions: "1) Does
Professor Churchill's conduct, including his speech, provide any grounds
for dismissal for cause, as described in the Regents' Laws? And (2) if so,
is this conduct or speech protected by the First Amendment against
University action?"

He said the review would provide due process in consultation with
University counsel. "Even as the debate continues," he said, "we must
understand the serious nature of actions to terminate or suspend a
professor on the basis of conduct that includes political speech."

In addition to DiStefano, other members of the panel will be Arts and
Sciences Dean Todd Gleeson and Law Dean David Getches, an authority on
Indian law and a founder of the Native American Rights Fund.