Such identity fraud is nothing new since the emergence of Native American Studies at Western universities some four decades ago, when such federal measures as affirmative action tried to bring American Indians, citizens of Indian nations with appropriate scholarly credentials, into the scholarly academies of the country. Since that time, a large number of non-Native academics have claimed Indian identity over the years to get appointments, grant money, Native authority and publications in the field, and they are assisted by universities like CU which generally refuse to go to the Indian agencies for authentification of an applicant’s citizenship.
Indeed, when Churchill was hired in his position, several Native American scholars spoke against his hiring during the vetting process, to no avail. It is not only inappropriate, it is another example of colonial domination to allow Churchill to further damage an emerging discipline like Indian studies, which has already been complicated by the ideological grounding of White America’s values and supremacy.
Churchill the phony Indian
1) I believe the hiring laws say that you can't hire someone solely because he's an Indian. Even if the job is teaching Indian studies. In theory, a white person could do as good a teaching job as an Indian and should be considered for the job.
But if Churchill got and kept the job under false pretenses, that would be a different matter. Then he'd be guilty of fraud or misrepresentation or lying on a job application. That would seem to be enough to prevent Churchill from resuming his old job.
It's funny that the University of Colorado is trying desperately to keep Churchill out, but won't play the "race card." Why not?
I don't know what the proper procedure would be, but surely there must be one. Maybe students have to file a grievance saying Churchill misled them. Maybe the school has to sue him on the grounds of misrepresentation. Whatever.
If he lied about being an Indian, as most people seem to think, prove it in the proper forum. Force him to explain and defend his so-called Indian heritage. If you can't win this case, then give up and rehire him. But not until you've pursued this avenue.
Incidentally, this is where I laugh once again at people like Kalisetsi and Angryindian for saying white folks shouldn't judge Indians. As usual, I'm not making the determination, people. I'm merely repeating and reflecting what most Indians think. They're the ones who believe Churchill is a phony.
Churchill's pro-Indian rhetoric
2) Cook-Lynn's second charge is that Churchill has hurt the "indigenous-ness and sovereignty" causes, weakened the "anti-colonial movement." How, by being more rabidly pro-Indian than most Indians? By adamantly promoting an indigenous worldview and denouncing America's colonialist government whenever he can? I don't quite see it.
He may have hurt these pro-Indian causes by fabricating evidence to support his radical positions. As I've said before, historical truth is the ideal and Churchill is a propagandist. But that's what the trial was about, and he won. He convinced a jury of his peers that his academic transgressions were minor, not major.
The point Cook-Lynn doesn't quite address is that Churchill has spent most of his career writing books, giving speeches, and drawing attention to a hard-core indigenous agenda. I don't think his alleged sins necessarily contradict or outweigh that. The agenda may be legitimate even if the author isn't.
Sure, Churchill's sloppy citations may lead some to question the Native position in general. But how many people will focus on his handful of misleading citations and how many on his many pro-Indian books and speeches? Except for his "little Eichmanns" essay and the resulting furor--a controversy he didn't start--the latter would be his legacy.
Sure, Churchill's dubious heritage may rob the limelight from genuine Native scholars. But if he's as pro-Indian as they are, does that disqualify him? He may be profiting off his alleged Indian-ness at their expense, taking away their career opportunities, but that's a personal or personnel matter. It's not the same as saying he's hurting the "anti-colonial movement" overall.
All the old AIM people--Russell Means, Dennis Banks, John Trudell, et al.--have publicized themselves to publicize their causes, and they're genuine Indians. If Churchill is doing roughly the same thing, are they all guilty of hurting the cause? Should people stick to writing op-eds like this one and not draw attention to themselves? I don't think so.
Summing up the charges against Churchill:
If Cook-Lynn objects to this rhetoric, as many people do, she should make a case against it. She hasn't done that here. Pointing out Churchill's faults--minor academic transgressions, phony Indian heritage, self-aggrandizement--does nothing to challenge his underlying positions. Again, these issues are separate matters.
For more on the subject, see Churchill from Beginning to End and Churchill: Manifest Destiny = Holocaust.