Suzan Shown Harjo has written a column about Ward Churchill with some very strong words to all involved:
During the Santa Fe Indian Market, Churchill was peddling a scandal sheet, railing against White Earth Chippewa artist David Bradley and the New Mexico and federal Indian arts and crafts laws, it turned out that Churchill was a painter — not a good one, but bad art is not illegal — who would face stiff penalties if he promoted his work as made by an Indian if he were not, in fact, an Indian.
You can see the problem, since Churchill is not an Indian and he could face repercussions for holding himself and his art out as Native American...well...instead of acting withing the parameters of the law...bully everyone involved...and if that doesn't work...let's kill the messenger!...
People began to check out Churchill's claims. Cherokee journalist David Cornsilk verified that Churchill and his ancestors were not on the Cherokee Nation rolls. Creek-Cherokee historian Robert W. Trepp did not find them on the Muscogee (Creek) Nation rolls.
Churchill lashed out against tribal leaders, sovereignty, citizenship and rolls, attacking Native people who did not support his claims as "card-carrying Indians" and "blood police."
Then, he went tribe-shopping. He added Metis, then Keetoowah, variously claiming to be an associate member, an enrolled member or 1/16 or 3/16 Cherokee....
Hank Adams, who is Assiniboine-Sioux and a member of the Frank's Landing Indian Community, has successfully researched and exposed other pseudo-Indians.
Adams traced Churchill's ancestors on both sides of his family, finding all white people, including documented slave owners and at least one spy, but zero Indians....
Slave Owners?? Did she say slave owners??
....and a Spy?....hmmm...this gets more and more interesting as each layer of this onion is peeled away...
Harjo's concern is that Churchill will not be discriminated against on the basis of being Indian...
It's important for Native people to speak out in order to counter the sort of thing that Churchill, even after being so very publicly unmasked, is now telling reporters: that he is Indian by virtue of community acceptance over a prolonged period. While some people in Colorado believe one or another of his stories, no Native nation and no Indian community of interest accepts him as one of their own.
Native artists never knew nor embraced him, either as an artist or as a Native person.
She also makes a valid point by comparing Churchill to Jayson Blair:
Churchill once worked for news outlets, but has not been accepted as a Native journalist, particularly by those he's viciously attacked after they reported what they found: that he could not substantiate his Indian claims.
(This note is for any reporters and editors who are confused: Churchill is the Stephen Glass, Jayson Blair and Jack Kelley of American Indian studies, but without their talent. Churchill simply makes it up, too, plus he invents Indian credentials. Keep in mind that no one accused their papers of violating free speech when they fired frauds for cause.) *note: my emphasis
Churchill got jobs, promotions, tenure and the Ethnic Studies chair at the University of Colorado because he portrayed himself as American Indian.
Now he's wrapped himself in the First Amendment, carefully draped over his Indian blanket. He's threatening to sue if he's fired for breach of contract or for the shameful things he said about the 9/11 victims.
The university should fire him because he has perpetrated a fraud, and moral turpitude is a deal-breaker. The university shielded him from those who tried to reveal the truth and looked the other way as he attacked a lot of decent Native people.
If he sues, he will have to come into court as the American Indian man he has claimed to be, and how is he going to do that? It is time for the university to end this charade.
oh my...do I hear the Fat Lady warming her singing voice up?...