- On the Justice of Charging Buffalo:“Who Stole American Indians Studies?” Redux
By what means? Towards what end? With what outcome? The reader may think that, by the strength of implication, Churchill's politics are scandalous. Whatever you think, in a time of no easy solutions, this book will awaken you to the pure necessity to put an end to empire.Chellis Glendinning, February 20031
I was asked to write this essay because I openly support Professor Ward Churchill, his scholarly views, his extant work, and his current struggles against the assaults that the University of Colorado (his employer) has waged upon his academic freedom and critical thinking. I consider my support to be one of my most significant acts of "decolonization."2 As many of us know, working for the interests of Indigenous Peoples is not easy, given that our colonizer is the most powerful nation in the world and, since we number more than five hundred nations, we can have very different minds on how (or whether) to pursue common strategies and tactics for decolonization. The case of Professor Churchill is no exception. Because of my open support for Churchill's pro-Indigenous and anti-imperialist scholarship and activism, and my [End Page 91] refusal to denounce him as an "ethnic fraud," I have been the target of criticism by colleagues in my department and university, and by Indigenous scholars throughout the United States and Canada. Although disappointing, these criticisms have been tempered by the fact that many Native scholars have privately communicated to me their support while others have openly endorsed Churchill's scholarship. I would guess that those supporting and not supporting are roughly equal in number. Students, on the other hand, the next generation of Indigenous scholars, have been overwhelmingly supportive. Go figure.
I support Churchill's scholarship because I recognize its essential importance to the fundamental objectives of Indigenous studies—sovereignty, empowerment, and Indigenousness—as promoted at the 2005 American Indian Studies Consortium and the 2005 Indigenous Professors Association meetings, other conferences, and in several publications. Further, I believe that Churchill's scholarship unequivocally contributes to the field's development of its academic identity, standards, and context within and outside the U.S. mainstream academy.
Before I continue, however, I will briefly address one of the criticisms waged by those who do not support Churchill's scholarship and/or case because of the red-herring issue of identity. Because of my commitment to Indigenous Peoples, I endorse the truth no matter where I find it. Whether Professor Churchill is Indigenous or not, is enrolled or not, or is of a certain blood quantum, is of little or no consequence to me since I am, and always have been, centrally concerned with pro-Indigenous activity.3 While I do understand why some of my colleagues are concerned (in some cases obsessed) with "identity," I rarely have found identity discussions in the academy to be critical, in-depth, coherent exercises leading to substantive outcomes that advance Indigenous scholarship and the rights of our peoples; instead the issue generally serves as a flashpoint for finger pointing: "who is Indigenous?" "they don't have a blood-quantum level on their CDIB card," "they're only a quarter, an eighth, or a sixteenth," "they act white," "they look too white (or black)," "they are married to a white person," or pick another.
Indeed, instead of assisting us in concentrating our intellectual resources on the pursuit of common goals that support the Indigenous communities to whom we are responsible, identity remains a vortex for the poisoning of our departments and our discipline, and for undermining our work for the people. In the "old days" many of our tribes who were brilliantly utilitarian made a regular practice of dealing with identity by formally adopting (nonmember) Indigenous and non-Indigenous persons who exhibited behaviors and thinking that empowered the nation. Many also made a practice of formally banishing those who endangered the group. It is too bad that, with all our PhDs, we have not found similar avenues to empower ourselves in the academy. [End Page 92]
Suffice to say I have found that Churchill stands behind...