By Charles C. Johnson
Pomona and Claremont McKenna College in eastern Los Angeles County have exchanged a Native American peace pipe every football game since 1959, but Mike Sutton, director of athletic and physical education, announced an end to the tradition last week.
“The issue of the inappropriate use of the Peace Pipe as a trophy was not a topic of conversation until October when members of the CMS (Claremont McKenna-Mudd-Scripps) and PP (Pomona-Pitzer) Athletic leadership met with students who are members of our Indigenous Student Alliance (ISA),” Sutton said in an email.
“The Peace Pipe’s retirement rests on the spiritual context of this religious tradition,” Sutton wrote. “If a group holds an object as sacred whether a pipe, a cross or a menorah, our values here at the college and the other colleges as well lead us to respect that object.”
But while the colleges maintain a position of honoring Native Americans by removing the tradition, they didn’t object to having Ward Churchill on campus Nov. 14 to denounce U.S. “colonialism.”
Churchill is described as an “American Indian scholar/activist,” though in fact the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians in 2005 announced that it had no record indicating his tribal affiliation was genuine.
Johnson says the colleges bowed to "pressure from left-wing groups." Two paragraphs later he identifies only one source of pressure: the Indigenous Student Alliance (ISA).
As usual with conservative idiots, Johnson tries to smear opposition to racism and stereotyping as liberal hand-wringing and "political correctness." Then he demolishes his own claim by admitting that Native students are behind the protest.
Johnson might have a point about the schools' inconsistency, but he ignores a key factor. The Claremont Colleges consist of five campuses, not one. They must have thousands of school officials and faculty members, and tens of thousands of students.
An athletic department's decision has little or nothing to do with a speakers' bureau decision. Expecting them to be consistent would like expecting the US Congress, the Maryland state legislature, and the DC city council to be consistent. Sure, it would be nice, but they're different bodies with different processes and priorities.
I agree that Churchill's identification as an "American Indian scholar/activist" is problematical, but is that really what bothers Johnson? I doubt it.
Judging by his comments, Johnson objects to Churchill primarily because of his "little Eichmanns" speech. If Churchill was identified correctly as a "scholar/activist involved in American Indian issues," would Johnson still care? I think he would, which would make him, like so many other conservatives, a free-speech hypocrite.
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