Friday, May 18, 2007


The RMN:

A faculty group defending the accuracy of works by embattled University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill misrepresented sources or relied on books the authors themselves have since repudiated.

That's just blatant distortion to make their point," said Russell Thornton, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, whose book was quoted in defense of Churchill.

University of Oklahoma professor Circes Sturm, who was also quoted, said she has since changed her views on a piece of federal Indian law Churchill is accused of distorting. Churchill was among her sources.

"If I had known that there were questions about the accuracy of his work, I would have looked to other sources," said Sturm, who is quoted by Churchill's defenders.

Sturm's sources included essays by M. Annette Jaimes, Churchill's first wife.

"What a tangled web," Sturm said. "I wish I wasn't in it."

But, as will become apparent, she got herself "in it" through her own (putting the best construction on it) laziness. The News continues:

Churchill has admitted ghostwriting some of Jaimes' essays - a fact Sturm couldn't have known at the time. . . .

Churchill also has frequently accused the U.S. Army of deliberately distributing smallpox-laden blankets to Indians at Fort Clark in 1837, sparking an epidemic there. But the investigative committee found that the sources he cited did not support his work.

One of those sources was Thornton, the UCLA professor whose book American Indian Holocaust and Survival covers the epidemic. The book concludes that smallpox was spread to the Mandan tribe by travelers on a steamship, not by the U.S. Army.

However, Cheyfitz and the professors working with him accused the investigative committee of ignoring a part of Thornton's book that includes the deathbed "speech" of Four Bears, a Mandan leader.

In it, Four Bears spoke of his impending death from smallpox "caused by those dogs, the whites."

But the speech doesn't mention the Army or the distribution of blankets.

"My reaction to this stuff about the speech of Four Bears is it's a bunch of BS," Thornton said.

"All it (the speech) says is that white men brought smallpox to Indians," Thornton said. "Well, so what? That's nothing. That's my view, anyway."

Thornton's rebuke didn't faze Cheyfitz.

"He ought to read the speech again," Cheyfitz said. "I mean, it's quite clear what the speech says - it says whites spread smallpox. And although it doesn't say the Army spread smallpox, we can assume, I think - safely assume - that amongst those white people that Four Bears was referencing in that speech he certainly had the Army in mind as part of it, since the Indians' major interaction with white people was with the Army."

As "Noj" says in a comment at PB (from whom I got this--I'm getting sick of saying that), "I suppose if you draw out your Venn diagrams, 'white people' does intersect 'the Army.'" The News:

Churchill also contends that Congress adopted codes that defined Indians by "blood quantum," or the percentage of their Indian blood. A person with one Indian parent and one non-Indian parent would be half Indian.

Churchill claims the blood quantum standard is similar to codes adopted by the Nazis to define Jews. Such a code is also controversial, because tribes claim they - not the federal government - have the right to determine their membership.

Churchill says the blood quantum standard is in an 1887 law that imposed private ownership of land on Indians in place of the traditional communal ownership by the tribe.

But legal scholars have said the 1887 law, called the General Allotment Act, contains no reference to blood quantum. The CU investigative committee upheld that view.

The Cheyfitz group charged that the investigators failed to consider works that support Churchill's view.

They cited Sturm, the Oklahoma professor, who referred to a blood quantum provision of the General Allotment Act in her 2002 book about the Cherokees.

But Sturm, an anthropologist, said she now has read the act and agrees it does not mention blood quantum.

"I felt horrible about it when I realized this after the book was already out," Sturm said.

Sturm said she did research for the book in the mid-1990s among Indians in Oklahoma. They widely believed the law contained a blood quantum provision.

"I think I was ready to accept that at face value," she said.

You think? You didn't even read the law, Circes. Cheyfitz, as always, had a "BS" response to Sturm's (where's Drang?) repudiaton of the Churchillian line:
Said Cheyfitz: "She's already printed what she's printed, and once it's out there, until she repudiates it in print or revises it, it basically holds."
So there. Cheyfitz also claimed
he was not bothered that a section of Sturm's book had, among its sources, works Churchill may have ghost written.

"Wherever she got that information, she used it herself," he said. "She lent her authority to it. And I think that that, in and of itself, speaks to the fact that this is an area of debate . . ."
La la la la. This guy is a lunatic.

Also cited by the Cheyfitz group was Angela Gonzales, who, like Cheyfitz, teaches at Cornell. But Gonzales said the essay Cheyfitz cited does not support Churchill.

Her essay does not say the law established a blood quantum standard to define Indians. Rather, federal officials who administered the law often defined Indians by blood quantum.

"There is nothing in the legislation that seems to suggest that blood quantum was to be required," Gonzales said in an interview.

Cheyfitz said that Churchill, like Gonzales, included interpretations placed on the act.

The Cheyfitz group also defended Churchill's claim that a blood quantum standard is part of a federal law governing the counterfeiting of Indian art.

Former Colorado U.S. Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, who sponsored the act, has said blood quantum is not part of the legislation. The wording of the act contains no reference to blood quantum.

The Rocky reporters asked Churchill for a response to all this debunkery and got a one-word reply, clearly plagiarized from a prominent blogger: "Heh."

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