Some years ago I found myself in scout uniform “self pumping” gas at the local short stop. Another fellow pulled into the stall next over and started filling his tank.
“Where yah headed?” he asked.
“I’m on my way to speak at an Eagle Scout Court of Honor.”
“Oh yah, me too." He beamed. “Our dance team is putting on the open flag ceremony. We’re Native Americans.”
“Oh yah, me too.” I replied with equal enthusiasm.
“Really?” he queried.
“Yah, I was born in Ogden, Utah.”
That’s not the end of the story. During the lead up to the Winter Olympics of 2002; (Note – it delights me that every two years all the Christians, Jews, and Muslims of the world come together to “worship Zeus”!) I was in the “main” office. Mr. L__, a handsome young teacher newly acquired by the school, was making small talk with one of the secretaries. They were discussing Mr. L__’s participation in the up coming Indian Dance Ceremonies at the Olympic opening show. My Boy Scouts “Indian Dance” all summer long; in fact I consider myself quite an aficionado on Indian Dancing. I have had in my employ; at different times of course; the “World’s Only Living Fire Hoop Dancer” (David Maughan) and the first Indian hoop dancer ever to produce a hoop sphere while hoop dancing (Paul Harris). Any why, I asked Mr. L__ how he had learned to “Indian Dance”.
“I am a Native American!” he proudly intoned.
I chimed in, [you guessed it] “Oh yah, me too, - a pause for effect – I was borne in Ogden, Utah!”
I believe the Olympic ceremony was called the First Utahans or First Americans – something like that. There were representatives of the five Indian Nations found in Utah when the Mormon Pioneers and the Mountain Men first put in their appearance; Utes, Piutes, Shoshones, Hopis, and Navajos. [Please correct me if I got the tribes wrong.] What interested me was the “first peoples” that were missing. There were no Anasazi dancers and no one represented the Fremont people. Why weren’t these “native” people represented? Because they were all “rubbed out” by the Ute. Piute, Shoshone, Hopi, and Navajo invaders who over ran Utah millenniums ago. Yes, these five great Indian Nations perpetrated Genocide!!!! They completely annihilated the “First Utahans”.
This brings me to the rantings of Ward Churchill, the non-Indian, non-professor of Ethnic Studies at the University of Colorado.
Last Sunday, I spent over an hour watching CSPAN’s broadcast of Churchill’s speech, pep-rally, and “question” period. Churchill has grabbed fame by writing that the 9/11 attack on America was just punishment for evils “America” has perpetrated in the past. He sighted the steeling of the “land” from its rightful owners. His implication was that “We the People” of the United States are living on stolen land; Indian land from which we should be justly swept into the sea, or to use Churchill’s words the “dust bin of history.” His shouted, angry gibberish was regularly punctuated by half hearted applause and a few boisterous cheers from a crowd of upwards of a hundred people. In front of his podium stood a line of angry looking, dark haired, young men dressed in black and looking ever so much like a line of fascist bully boys. Behind Churchill stood two other impressive motorcycle gang types; no doubt standing by to defend the “professor” should anyone fling the truth in his direction.
His speech was one of the most offensive misrepresentation of history I have ever witnessed. A lie that was applauded by the trained monkeys assembled to “show support” for their master.
I wonder if the “professor” has studied enough history to know that from time immemorial invading waves of people have pulsed over the globe. Does he know about the land bridge that brought the ancestor of the Aztecs flooding down North America on their way to subjugate the peoples who conquered Mexico the time before? The Aztecs harvested the young men of their subject peoples for bloody sacrifice to their Eurasian goddesses? One begins to wonder if Churchill’s image of pre-Columbian America was generated by a Hams Beer Commercial; sweet and loving communal peoples living in harmony with each other and nature. The reality of America before the arrival of Europeans is much like the reality of the rest of the world in any time. Peoples dividing themselves into arbitrary groups – if not by color, then by language, or ancestry, or favorite pottery design; and systematically murdering each other over religion, fear, prejudice and greed. That the Dakota eventually found themselves fighting Irishmen or Africans rather than Shoshones or Crows made little difference to those who killed or died. Cortez, now so vilified in the revisionist history of American development, was once seen as a liberator to the peoples of Mexico who had suffered for centuries under the murderous over lordship of Montezuma and his predecessors.
In Europe, migrating Celts consumed the land and lives of people so forgotten that they are simply called Pre-Celtic. The Celts in turn were over run by Achaeans, Ionians, Dorinas, Latins and Romans, before being driven into the sea by Anglo-Saxons, Danes, and Normans. I wonder if Churchill has ever heard or the Goths, the Vandals, the Huns or the Franks? In Japan, the invading Mongolian people pushed the indigenous Ainu population onto reservations were they still live. The Arians swept across India and the Zulu across South Africa. No one living today is any more responsible for their conquest or migrations than the nearest pile of rocks. Churchill’s whole point is moot; we inherit nothing from our ancestors but our humanity.
It is obvious that Churchill has not concept of these ideas. Having cheated his way into a job at the university by claiming to be an Indian he probably finds it quite simple to continue to cheat his students out of the truth. It is ironic that Ward Churchill’s lies have probably cost “genuine American Indians” the chance to teach Ethnic Studies at the University of Colorado. I wonder how the three Indian scholars who had their chance at a job stolen by this fake Indian feel about the justice of Ward Churchill’s sending them “back to the reservation”?
The fact is that Churchill’s phony claims only serve to emphasize the truth; that no one is any more closely related to any of the long dead legions of the past than any one else. Many of my friends and family cherish the notion that they are some how mystically descended from Hebrews. It is a good thing that Jesus has explained that God is capable of turning stones into sons of Abraham.
But Churchill takes his lie past the foolish to the dangerous. Claiming some mystical right of decent, “Chief” Ward calls down the avenging might of Islamic terrorists on the heads of Americans. Innocents who had no more choice in their linage than he did. Who have killed no more Indians than they have Pre-Celts. How odd for someone purporting to be a liberal to visit the sins of the fathers on the heads of the children way past the third and forth generation.
Churchill went on to further fabricate a position by claiming that the murder of Americans, and now Iraqis as they must fight for freedom against terrorists, is just retribution for the 500,000 Iraqi children starved to death by the US sanctions imposed on Saddam’s regime. The fact is that there is not evidence that any Iraqi children starved to death during the long years of sanctions. More importantly it has become obvious the money for the food and medicine intended for the people of Iraq provided by the Oil for Food program was stolen by Saddam, his buddies in the UN, and some very connected people in France, Germany, and Russia. [Interesting that these are the same nations who’s miss-leadership called for continuing the “diplomatic” solutions to Saddam’s mass murders, support of terrorism, and development of terror weapons.]
My students and I study the Orestes cycle. The story of the vengeance of the Furies on the house of Atreus. The senate of Argos chants “Now the blood that Atreus shed falls on Agamemnon’s head”. It is Athena the Goddess of Wisdom, Justice, and Righteous War, who imposed the shield of the Law between the Furies and the people. As long as the people act in accordance with truth, the Furies will be contained. Now Ward Churchill wants to dredge up clan hatred, blood grudge, and the furies to reek vengeance on the children of people long dead. Terrorist are the prefect tools for this diabolic scheme. They drip the blood of the "eye for and eye, life for life" vengeance of the uncivilized past. Seeking to stir up hate against innocent people by conjuring injustices done to long dead ancestors or their comrades in murder, Churchill and his disciples perpetuate the blood feud. What a convenient weapon terror is once reason goes away.
At the end of his rant Churchill took questions. Most were testimonials to the master’s greatness, but one young man challenged Ward. He said that although he disagreed with Churchill, he felt that Churchill had a right to say what he ever he wanted. He challenged, "why do you protest the celebration by “my people”, the celebration of Columbus Day." "Why," the young Italian American asked, "don’t my 4th amendment rights mean anything to you?" Churchill then launched on a convoluted ramble explaining that the 9th amendment, which reserves all rights not enumerated in the constitution to the people, protected his human rights. To Churchill, showing honor to “the beginner of the Genocide of his people” violated his human rights. This is utterly ludicrous, first, there is no implied right in the Constitution to defend anyone from being insulted, and secondly, Churchill’s rantings about the “little Ikemans” of the Twin Towers might well offend the human feelings of their children, parents, friends, and lovers. The young man tried a follow up question; no doubt wishing to point out Churchill’s miss interpolation of the 9th amendment, but was shouted down by the mob and the “professor”. Obviously in Churchill’s world of fantasy scholarship, and fantasy Indians, one only gets one question at the foot of the fantasy god Churchill!
Churchill would do well to study a little Cicero along with the history his missed. He might come to understand that “Men and Gods are all one commonwealth” and stop trying to claw his way to position and power by inciting hate and division among Americans and other peoples of the world. Maybe he ought to listen to Socrates and Gandhi – who claimed citizenship in no city or county but proudly claimed to be native sons of the world!.
5 months ago