Friday, January 20, 2006

Ward Churchill Speaks at DePaul

On October 30th, 2005 DePaul was lucky enough to have activist, author and scholar Professor Ward Churchill appear and speak to a packed audience. Unfortunately, due to an inability to reserve a larger room, Churchill’s speech was held in the tiny room 314b of the student center, which only held 100 people who had RSVPed with the Cultural Center. It was the cultural center which had invited him to speak. Churchill had spoke at DePaul courtesy of the Cultural Center back in 1999. So when the recent controversy over his writings erupted in Spring of 2005, the Cultural Center was quick to offer support and invite Churchill to speak at DePaul.

Churchill is a Professor at the University of Colorado in Boulder. He has been involved with the American Indian Movement, and led a protest of the Columbus day parade that managed to disrupt the celebration of Columbus the mass murderer. He has written a number of books about the US governments genocide against native peoples, the FBI’s secret war against the Black Panthers and other topics. He came under fire from conservatives last spring for an article he wrote about the September 11th attacks entitled, “Some People Push Back: On the Justice of Roosting Chickens.” In this essay, Churchill pointed out that while there were innocent people who died on 9/11, janitors, firemen and secretary's for example, there were also bureaucrats who profited off of the destruction of the “third world.” Churchill termed these stock traders, Leo's and military commanders “little Eichmann's” a reference to the Nazi war criminal who despite being a rather quiet desk job type of person, masterminded the Nazi’s “final solution.” Churchill also had the audacity to point out that the US commits 9/11 style terrorism everyday, and that the justification the Pentagon uses for it is strikingly similar to the justification used by Al Qaeda for the 9/11 attacks.

The topic of the speaker’s series which the Cultural Center was hosting was “Invisible Men.” In his appearance at DePaul, Churchill spoke mostly on his 9/11 essay and the allegations that he was not Native American.

Churchill was introduced by Dr. Harvette Grey, the Director of the Cultural Center. He opened by stating, “Greetings from the Republican Party of Boulder Colorado, of which I am a member of.” He continued to explain how he was an old school republican who believed in the constitution, not to be confused with the newer republicans whom he termed fascists.

On 9/11 he mostly reiterated the points in his essay, which is reprinted in this issue of Revolver. He pointed out how under the Clinton administration over 500,000 Iraqi children died as a result of the UN sanctions on Iraq. The UN administrator of the sanctions resigned, calling it a policy of genocide. What was the general US publics reaction though? A yawn. Churchill said that this was as invisible as you could get.

On the allegations that he was not Native American, Churchill pointed out the history of race lineage in the US. How a person with one drop of black blood was often considered to be black. However his own lineage was approximately 1/16th Native American, somehow the white power structure can make up rules to discredit him, and say he’s not Indian enough. In other words, the conservative power elite can make up their own rules on who’s what in order to maintain their dominance over all. Churchill continued to point out how difficult it is for many Native Americans to prove their ancestry because of a lack of written records. He said that his tradition was oral, and that it was the western colonizers tradition to keep birth records and such. He also said that his family and his community raised him as a Native American and considered him Native American so, “No punk white kid from the post office is going to tell me who I am.”

The question and answer session had Churchill answer questions on whether or not his definition of values included support for Gays and Lesbians, to which he replied “Is there something about me that makes you think I’m a fundamentalist?” He also suggested that if the founding fathers were doing today what they did in their own time, they would be branded terrorists and sent to Guatanamo Bay.

Chur chill appearance was short, only an hour. He mentioned that the topics he touched on could be turned into a whole class, to which this author suggested, “Come teach at DePaul.” Professor Churchill is a courageous person who progressives and radicals should continue to support against the right wingers who wish to curtail academic freedom.

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