Is Ward Churchill really an Indian?
Indian Country Today, the national weekly run by the Oneida Nation in upstate New York, ran a story Feb. 3 casting doubt on Ward Churchill's claims to be a Native American. The account by Indian Country Today staff writer Jim Adams again aired accusations by national Indian leaders that Churchill has no real Indian ancestry. The report found:
At various times, according to press reports, Churchill has described himself as Cherokee, Keetoowah Cherokee, Muskogee, Creek and most recently Meti. In a note in the online magazine Socialism and Democracy he wrote, ''Although I'm best known by my colonial name, Ward Churchill, the name I prefer is Kenis, an Ojibwe name bestowed by my wife's uncle.'' In biographical blurbs, he is identified as an enrolled member of the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokees. But a senior member of the band with access to tribal enrollment records told Indian Country Today that Churchill is not listed. George Mauldin, tribal clerk in Tahlequah, Okla., told the Rocky Mountain News, ''He's not in the data base at all.''
According to Jodi Rave, a well-known Native journalist and member of the Mandan-Hidatsa-Arikara Three Affiliated Tribes [in North Dakota], Churchill was enrolled as an ''associate member'' of the Keetoowah by a former chairman who was later impeached. The one other known member of the same program, since discontinued, was President Bill Clinton. Rave said that she made this discovery as a student in a journalism class at the University of Colorado. She was also in a class taught by Churchill. When her article came out, she said, he dropped her grade from an A to a C minus.
Suzan Shown Harjo, a columnist for ICT who has tracked Churchill's career, said that aside from the in-laws of his late Indian wife, he has not been able to produce any relatives from any Indian tribe.
The Oneida Indian Nation, which has historic ties to nearby Hamilton College, issued the following statement on the Churchill affair:
''It's disturbing that anyone would use such hateful speech, and do so while claiming to be an American Indian when there is significant evidence that he is not. Professor Churchill caused many in the media to falsely believe an American Indian scholar could besmirch the lives of those who died on 9/11. Because of this, he owes every American Indian an apology.
"Likewise it is sad that he would perpetrate this apparent hoax on Hamilton College, an institution founded to help educate Indian students.''
(Hamilton was founded by Samuel Kirkland, 18th century missionary to the Oneidas, and the famous Oneida Chief Schenandoah is buried on its grounds. The Oneida Nation owns Four Directions Media, publisher of Indian Country Today.)
See our last post on the Churchill affair.