In Response to Ellen Schrecker’s “Ward Churchill at the Dalton Trumbo Fountain”: An Introduction to the Colorado Conference of the AAUP’s Report on the Termination of Ward Churchill

By Ward Churchill

Prominently featured in the inaugural issue of the AAUP Journal of Academic Freedom (JAF) was an article by historian cum AAUP Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure member Ellen Schrecker titled “Ward Churchill at the Dalton Trumbo Fountain,” purportedly using my much-publicized case at the University of Colorado, Boulder (UCB) as a means of illuminating the more generalized repression of critical scholarship in the United States since September 2001. Having received a heads-up that the article would be appearing, I must admit that I’d been awaiting its publication with considerable eagerness. This was so, both because I hoped its release might reflect a change for the better in my theretofore negative experience with the AAUP’s national office, and because I held—in fact, still hold—Schrecker’s work concerning the impact of McCarthyism on the academy in highest esteem.She of all people, I imagined, couldbe relied upon not only to recount what had transpired at UCB in a fair and accurate manner but to properly contextualize it.

Hence, it should not be difficult to imagine how stunned I was, upon my first reading of the piece, to find myself depicted as a “long-haired fifty-eight-year-old … who affected a modified Native American style of dress with a beaded headband and dark glasses,” a man who’d “latched on to the Native American cause” from “the fringes of the 1960s left” although “the nature of his [own] identity as a Native American” is “spurious.”The reason for this last assessment, it was explained, is that, “Apparently, one of his ancestors had married a Native American woman … though Churchill was not actually her descendant.” Bluntly put, anyone viewing me through the lens of the “facts” Schrecker recited in this regard would have had little alternative but to conclude that I was guilty of “ethnic fraud,” and am perhaps a rather comic figure as well.

Remarkably, given the acutely personal nature of her observations, as well as the disparaging manner in which they were offered, Schrecker gave no hint of having bothered to actually acquaint herself with my background in any way at all. Indeed, while simply parroting my “enemies within … the faction-ridden American Indian Movement” concerning my supposed fashion preferences, the only source she cited in connection with everything else was a story appearing in the openly reactionary Denver Post at the very height of the Colorado media’s virulent campaign to discredit me during the spring of 2005.5 Not to put too fine a point on it, she’d have done no worse had she simply regurgitated as fact the contents of a profile emanating from Joe McCarthy’s internal security subcommittee when characterizing one of the individuals targeted by that squalid entity.

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