5 February 2005
These are my people, because I say so
Well, what do you know. Firebrand University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill, who has made noises about how all those nasty European types should go home and leave the American continent for the true natives like him, has the same amount of Native American ancestry as, say, William Jefferson Clinton: zilch.
The former chairman of the Keetoowah band of Cherokee Indians says University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill was given an honorary membership that required no proof of Cherokee heritage.
John Ross led the tribe for several years in the 1990s. He says the Keetoowah established an "associate member" program to recognize friends of the tribe. "If somebody helped out in a certain way, to honor them they'd give them an associate membership," Ross said Thursday. "There were 300 or 400 associate members."
Former President Clinton also was given an honorary membership in the tribe.
To be a full-fledged member of the Keetoowah, a person has to prove he or she is at least one-fourth Cherokee. Churchill has never had such a membership. Only full members are allowed to vote, hold office and receive tribal privileges.
Churchill has cited his associate membership in the tribe as proof of his Cherokee roots. He told The Denver Post on Wednesday he is three-sixteenths Cherokee. In the past, he has described himself as one-sixteenth Cherokee and also claimed to have Creek Indian blood.
I'd side with the pundits who argue that recent inflammatory statements by Churchill are insufficient grounds to sack him: you don't advance the cause of academic freedom by revoking tenure of those who rock the boat. On the other hand, playing fast and loose with the truth is good enough reason to toss anyone out on his tuchas, ethnicity be damned.
(With thanks to John Rosenberg.)Posted at 6:20 PM to Wastes of Oxygen