As a high school teacher and a collector of oral history for my tribe, I find it troubling that professor Michael Yellow Bird of The University of Kansas would jeopardize the validity of oral history in his support of Ward Churchill. Ward Churchill’s scholarship is factual on many levels but his “identity theft” as an indigenous person only serves to place that scholarship and real history in serious doubt in the minds of the general population.No mention, of course, of Yellow Bird's assertions that "fabricated, made-up accounts further the truth" or that "scholars do this all the time." Instead, Fontaine harps on Chutch's fake indigeneity rather than Yellow Bird's patently wiggy statements.
I’m not sure if American Indians are aware of the landmark Canadian Supreme Court decision, Delgamuukw v. British Columbia (1997), which ruled tribal oral history was just as valid as European written history in a court of law involving land claims. . .I wasn't, but that's an idea CU's Chutch committee took to heart in trying to give Wart some shred of respectability: utterly unmoored assertions of no provenance equal scholarly research with verifiable cites.
A neo-con journalist up here in Canada picked up the story on Churchill’s defense that oral history supported his assertions that smallpox was intentionally introduced to the Mandan Nation by the American army. The Canadian journalist used this as an example that tribal oral history was based on “vague claims.”Yes?
My fear is lawyers will quickly use the Churchill saga as proof that oral history can be manipulated or fabricated.As well they should.
The end result is to discredit oral history in any future tribal land claim [and anything else--ed.]. Also, did Churchill ever interview the last Mandan speaker, Edwin Benson, to verify his assertions? Did the Mandan Nation ever mandate professor Yellow Bird or Churchill to speak on its behalf?No. (Scroll doon a bit.) Their spokeswoman directly contradicted them.
Professor Yellow Bird has surely contributed to the colonization of tribal oral history in his defense of Churchill.Not sure what "colonization of tribal oral history" means, but I still agree: righto, for all the wrong reasons.
– Craig FontaineUpdate: The pirate whose parrot has absorbed Patrick Swayze's soul ("Wolveriiiiiiiines, matey") has good stuff on "serious" Cornell scholar Eric Cheyfitz's Big Lie about the Mandan blanket episode.
Sagkeeng First Nation