More about Churchill at pirateballerina.comNote: The following email was submitted to us from an anonymous source. We cannot vouch for the provenance nor the authenticity of this email. It appears to be from Natsu Taylor Saito, Ward Churchill's current wife and a fellow professor at CU's Ethnic Studies Department.
Dear Ethnic Studies folks, The following is going out to a bunch of supporters - thought you might like the update as well..... As I'm sure you know, in recent weeks Ward Churchill's substantive critiques of U.S. policies and practices have been conveniently buried in a frenzy of increasingly ugly personal attacks. The local media (along with Bill O'Reilly) and the political forces behind them have made no secret of their agenda to destroy Ward's reputation and career, along with academic freedom, tenure and ethnic studies at CU. With so many allegations and so little coverage of Ward's responses, I'm sure you have questions as well, so I've included below a brief summary which I hope provides some context and sheds a little light on the credibility of the accusations. In addition, some of Ward's responses and excerpts from scholars' statements on his work are attached. Ward was considering a settlement with CU in the hopes that it would forestall a more general erosion of academic freedom and allow him to return to his research and writing. Last week this possibility was subverted by another round of personal attacks on Ward and by political threats against the Regents. As a result, Interim Chancellor Phil DiStefano has now promised to issue a "report" on the "investigation" by Monday March 28. We have no doubt that the right wing will intensify its campaign to ensure that the report is as negative as possible. Ward has never been officially notified of the investigation, much less consulted, and the local media rarely publishes his responses or those of others who attempt to counter various allegations. We cannot force the media to fairly cover the issues, or expect a secret "investigation" to result in due process. A political battle is being waged in which responsible journalism and academic integrity have precious little role. But the knowledge that this process is being publicly scrutinized can make a tremendous difference. If you're willing to take the time this week to write the editors of the local newspapers and also copy the committee that will issue the report, it would be of great help. Letters needn't be long or profound and can address any aspect of this process. Even if you can't do that, please feel free to circulate this and to contact me directly if you have further questions. Since there is so much disinformation circulating, I think it's really important to give folks this information and encourage them to question the sources that they may be relying on. Your support, expressed in so many ways over the past weeks, has really kept us going. With appreciation, Natsu MEDIA CONTACT INFO: letters@RockyMountainNews.com firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org PLEASE CC:Phil.Distefano@colorado.edu Gleeson@colorado.edu Getches@colorado.edu email@example.com ************************************************************************ *** OVERVIEW: 1. First, a bit of background: Ward Churchill has published more than twenty books, dozens of book chapters and over one hundred journal articles; has received numerous teaching awards and four prestigious awards for writing; was inducted into the Martin Luther King Collegium of Scholars in 2004; and as of 2001 was the most cited scholar in his field. Students flock to his classes and his public lectures are uniformly well received. Ward is a big guy. He speaks the truth as he sees it, forcefully and without compromise. To some people his size and the strength of his convictions appear threatening, and that is the image most frequently projected by the media. Most who know him, however, understand that the anger he can project is not personal but stems from the pain of seeing lives and communities needlessly destroyed. They understand that the only danger he poses is to the status quo. Even in the midst of the current controversy he rarely goes anywhere without people * often complete strangers * seeking him out to express their appreciation for giving voice to their realities. Ward's writing focuses on the government's failure to comply with the Constitution and with international law, both with respect to American Indians and in its foreign policy. In some circles he is best known for documenting the FBI's COINTELPRO operations and their attempts to destroy the Black Panther Party and the American Indian Movement (AIM). These governmental actions, of course, included disinformation campaigns in which bogus "news" was fed to the media by government sources, people's personal lives were publicly shredded, dissent was fomented within organizations, activists were gratuitously charged with criminal conduct and, when all else failed, those considered most threatening to the status quo were falsely imprisoned or assassinated. In addition to being a scholar, for over thirty years Ward has also been a political activist. As a result, he has been under intense surveillance * well documented by FBI and Denver police files * and has often been attacked politically. Never, however, as intensely as at present. 2. In late January, having successfully forced former political prisoner Susan Rosenberg out of a teaching position at Hamilton College, right wing activists in upstate NY turned their attention to Ward's "Roosting Chickens" essay, generating enough threats of violence to cancel his speech. 3. Politicians and the media then attempted to say that Ward was "advocating" the attacks of 9/11 rather than trying to explain their causes. (See attached statement on 9/11.) Colorado Governor Bill Owens, other politicians, the Denver newspapers and local radio (KHOW) talk show hosts Dan Caplis, Craig Silverman and Peter Boyles immediately began a campaign to fire Ward and the CU Regents initiated the current "investigation." KHOW, Bill O'Reilly and the local papers have kept the issue "hot" with daily attacks. 4. To some extent the spin on the 9/11 piece was countered by Ward's highly publicized and extremely well-received speeches at CU and in Hawai'i and Wisconsin. The media pundits, particularly Caplis and Silverman, then changed their focus from the substance of Ward's arguments to the allegation that he incites others to violent criminal action * a charge prominently featured in a full-page ad, a major op-ed, and their radio show. (Ward's response is attached.) This, in turn, has been used by Bill O'Reilly to denounce Ward as a "traitor." 5. As that charge lost steam, it has mutated into inferences that Ward "modus operandi" is to personally threaten violence. Recently the press has featured several such claims, each unsubstantiated and heretofore unreported, and alleged to have happened years, even decades, ago. While both untrue and irrelevant, such charges effectively distract people from the real issues. 6. Some people have, of course, remained focused on the substance of Ward's message, and many on the importance of supporting academic freedom. Statements denouncing the attacks and/or the Regents' investigation have come from the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), the board of directors of the Society of American Law Teachers (SALT) and numerous other academic organizations; over a thousand professors and several thousand others have signed petitions and/or sent individual letters. This groundswell has forced the Regents to disregard the Governor's call to immediately fire Ward. 7. As it has become clear that it is politically untenable * as well as illegal * to fire Ward simply because of his ideas, attacks on the academic front have moved from the content of his work to allegations of "fraud." Ignored are the dozens of eminent scholars such as Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky, and David Stannard who have publicly praised Ward's scholarship. (See attached excerpts.) Instead, the focus has been on three accusations from relatively unknown academics and two easily refuted claims of "grade retribution" from among the thousands of students Ward has taught. 8. The primary allegation of academic fraud is a charge of plagiarism arising from a 1999 article by University of New Mexico professor John LaVelle, a long-time political foe. LaVelle juxtaposes quotes from Ward's books to passages by other authors and concludes that Ward wrote all the passages in question. The media has turned this on its head, claiming that Ward engaged in plagiarism. (To decide for yourself, you only need compare the writing styles; also see Ward's attached response.) In 1996 LaVelle also published an article, since discredited by many scholars, in which he accuses Ward of "fraud" over what is at most an interpretive dispute. 9. The second allegation is by Thomas Brown, an apparently unpublished assistant professor at Lamar University. Brown contests Ward's interpretation of the U.S. Army's role in the spreading of smallpox to the Mandan near Fort Clark in 1837. At best this is a disagreement of historical interpretation, not a fraud claim. 10. And the third is from Fay Cohen of Dalhousie University, who belatedly claimed that portions of her writing were included without attribution in a report by a research collective published in 1992. Ward is identified as playing a lead role in compiling the document, but was neither its author nor the editor of the book in which it appeared. Even assuming that Cohen's complaint was legitimate, one has to question both why she would raise the issue at this time and only against Ward, and why it would call his entire body of scholarship into question. 11. In a parallel effort to discredit Ward, his identity has become a topic of general debate. Relying on the denunciations of a small network of political adversaries centered around a Minneapolis-based organization that calls itself "National AIM," the media has asserted that Ward is a "fake" Indian, completely disregarding the determination of the Keetoowah Band of Cherokee, his actual family history, and his longterm participation in and support from the local American Indian community, Colorado AIM and Indian organizations around the country. 12. It is worth noting in this context that after AIM's leadership was decimated by COINTELPRO operations in the 1970s and early '80s, in order to survive it transformed itself into a series of autonomous chapters, of which Colorado AIM is the strongest. "National AIM" was subsequently incorporated by one faction of former AIM members. It is a corporate entity which, according to its own reports has received funding from both the federal government and corporations like Honeywell. This group has spent considerable energy attacking Colorado AIM. Recently released intelligence files reveal an the Denver Police were informed by the FBI in 1995 of a plan by unnamed individuals from Minneapolis to assassinate Colorado AIM leaders Ward Churchill and Glenn Morris and wound Russell Means. "National AIM" has for years denounced Ward as not only as a "fake" Indian but as an FBI agent, a former cop, and a CIA operative who supported the Contras in Nigeria (yes, Nigeria). Not surprisingly, a number of those now raising accusations of academic fraud and personal threats * as well as identity * have ties to this group. 11. Without any critical investigation of the sources, and ignoring much evidence to the contrary, the press has reported this wide range of allegations as if they were "news." On the "Indian question" Ward is now being widely denounced as having been hired, tenured and promoted simply as a result of a false claim of ethnicity. (If it were that easy, one has to wonder where all the Indians in academia are.) Simultaneously, he is being barraged by virulent anti-Indian racism, most of it a variant of "we should have exterminated all of you long ago," complete with every derogatory adjective imaginable. And just in case nothing else sticks, an assortment of other claims about Ward's artwork, his service in Vietnam, and relationships with former wives are being tossed in. 12. All of this adds up to a classic disinformation campaign (of the sort documented by Ward and Jim Vander Wall in their books, Agents of Repression and COINTELPRO Papers), one designed to "neutralize" political dissent. Historically we have seen that such efforts only escalate. As CU President Betsy Hoffman warned just before she announced her resignation, these attacks are intended not simply to discredit Ward Churchill, but are part of a concerted national campaign to undermine academic freedom. In discussing the settlement option, the CU Regents flatly rejected Ward's demand that they affirm their own rules on academic freedom. Similarly, they refused to acknowledge the validity of existing tenure and review processes. Governor Owens is a major player in Lynne Cheney's American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA). At CU and across the country, attacks have begun on ethnic studies and women's studies, on affirmative action, and on other professors. In recent weeks not only Ward but students of color at CU generally have been subjected to acts of blatant racial hatred. To accede to a "where there's smoke" rationale without considering the credibility of sources or their motivations legitimizes the use of ad hominem attacks to undermine academic freedom. The targeting of Ward Churchill is just the opening round; what is happening to him can be done * though perhaps with less visibility * to anyone critical of the status quo. The widespread attempts to neutralize political dissent we currently face will be limited only by the effectiveness of our resistance on each front.