On Colonialism as Genocide: Ward Churchill Speaks at Concordia University, Montreal

Some just cannot learn how to be “good Indians,” to not talk back, to not criticize, to not remember, remind, or point to ongoing colonialism. After all, “all that” was supposed to be over — now Indians are supposed to be amiable, wise, poor, brown, living versions of the Cigar Store Indian, there to appease and assure whites with gnat-sized memories and to serve as exotic items of consumption in an American world remade in the image of Disney. America did no wrong, does no wrong, and even if it ever wronged the Indians, it cannot be genocide, because that is what Nazis did; at the very least, their genocide was worse, the American genocide was a good one. Besides America is killing brown people elsewhere, not at home, right? Ward Churchill, accompanied us through some of the stock myths and fables of American nation-think, at one point doing a hilarious rendition of his average right wing critic: “What are you complaining about? Genocide? That happened over 15 minutes ago! Get over it! Level the playing field! Be contrite. I’ll give you a job, working on your own land, for very little.”

On Wednesday 15 April 2009, Professor Ward Churchill spoke at Concordia University, less than two weeks after the successful verdict won in his wrongful termination suit against the University of Colorado. He did not mention his trial more than twice, and even then in passing and in the form of humorous jabs. He is picking up where he left off before his work was interrupted by his need to defend himself against the university that hired him for doing what got him fired. The conflict lasted four years, and he showed no desire to let it monopolize any more of his time. What is certain is that his spirits have not been dampened. By the end of the night, he received two standing ovations from the audience. He was comfortable and at home.

One of the strong points of the event was to consistently link American behaviour at home with American conduct abroad, and constantly contextualizing the exercise of power in the production of racism and inequality. Thanks to Churchill’s expertise, it was done effortlessly, with economy, incisive analysis, and good humour.

The event was organized by QPIRG-Concordia (the Quebec Public Interest Research Group), which opened the evening with a showing of a very dramatic and informative documentary, “American Outrage.” QPIRG also introduced the audience to the five female students who head its different working groups focused on diverse indigenous struggles in Canada. They organize and mobilize on numerous fronts, on a wide variety of issues, and also run their own resource center.

Ward Churchill spoke for roughly one hour, followed by about 45 minutes of dialogue with those who went to the microphones to ask questions, or as became increasingly common toward the end, to give their own speeches directed at the audience. More than once Churchill had to use his famous line, “Was there a question in there?” In some cases it appeared that some speakers wanted to better Churchill at talking radical, some delivering speeches straight at the audience, while others simply wanted to have their views certified by Churchill, who instead seemed more interested in creating discussion and not taking any principles for granted. In an attempt to create dialogue out of monologues, Churchill also indicated that he was not in favour of socialist alternatives to capitalism, citing the example of how he believes the Miskitos, Sumus, and Ramas fared under the Sandinista Revolution in 1980s Nicaragua. This is one bone of contention that, among others, helped to split the American Indian Movement in which Churchill was an active figure (and he remains so, in Colorado-AIM [blog] which branched off from what is now the National AIM [blog].)

Seeing Churchill speak in person, one can easily detect the serious degree to which the persona of Ward Churchill has been aesthetically distorted by the media in the U.S., and his blustering critics (no surprises there). Often news reports and blog posts are accompanied by photos that show Churchill in some sort of rage, pounding his fist in the air (see here), shouting, or outright snarling (see this from The Denver Post). Contrary to popular video clips and photographs that show him angry and hostile as part of the standard effort to demonize critics like Churchill and show them in the meanest ways possible, Churchill is actually a rather soft spoken man who has an excellent sense of humour, speaks without rancor, and respectfully addresses many different opinions. When he disagreed, it was without a hint of any personal animosity. You will be able to see/hear this for yourselves from the video and audio that are below.

The video covers Ward Churchill’s entire address, and most of the statements made in response to members of the audience after his talk, with one interruption in the video occasioned by the need to change batteries and the tape. The video was recorded using a rather low-grade camcorder with very poor lighting that required a great deal of  post-production. The only advantage of the video below is that it is all contained within one, long continuous segment rather than across more than a dozen YouTube videos. The audio file, while also less than pristine in quality (since the microphone captured sounds from every angle), covers the entire event, except for the film and the introductions.

Play audio:

http://www.openanthropology.org/churchillconcordiam.mp3%20
download audio file (107 mb)
[right click: “save target as…”]

Video:


21 thoughts on “On Colonialism as Genocide: Ward Churchill Speaks at Concordia University, Montreal

  1. Kiven, it’s great to hear from you!

    Anyway, you can always make up for not being here by watching this absolutely gigantic video file, filmed with such exceptional expertise.

  2. I wasn’t going to bring this up during posts about the trial because I didn’t think it was necessarily directly related, but I’m reminded of something similar to this on a much smaller scale. Where I live there are several designated areas for native americans and the local history museum got a grant to create a comprehensive presentation of the area’s history (I live in Maine). My mother, a librarian, was asked to help organize and work with the native american part of its history (which in itself seems dodgy, since they have much more history here than later european colonists). The criticism of how Churchill had drawn on the oral history of Native Americans reminded me of the project, because recently the administrators of the project told my mother, who sits on the board, that they wanted the information to be clear facts and well documented. She has refused to communicate this message, considering it to be ignorant and racist.

  3. That’s a good point you raise Kate. There does appear to be this side that privileges or empowers documentation produced, gathered and organized by one side of a conflict. Much of what we know as “the archives” consists of motivated reports, selective accounts, and opinions offered by the dominant parties, by colonists and colonial officials. Under the best of circumstances a serious amount of deep source criticism is required before one can retrieve anything that might be plausibly construed as credible information, and the process begins with total skepticism toward documents. I am not saying that one can simply buy any oral account at face value either, but simply ignoring it is an ideological act. It also suggests that the right kind of knowledge is the European kind of knowledge, and there can only be one valid interpretation and one valid methodology. Again, that is not ethnohistory, that is a simple transcription of cultural prejudice. I thought this was the value of what Ward Churchill raised as an objection to the CU investigative committee, and I say that as someone who did a fair amount of ethnohistorical research with a Native community in the Caribbean. I recognized Churchill’s arguments, and I recognized them as valid ones.

    In an earlier post, on the closing arguments in Churchill’s case, I wrote along similar lines:

    “Lane argued that Churchill’s case essentially revolved around Churchill’s challenge to a Western, white master narrative: “When you tell the truth about the master narrative, the master slaps you down for it….Basically, white guys in suits write history” (source). The CU Standing Committee on Research Misconduct essentially adopted a very simplistic, naive, positivist/empiricist view of history in line with Leopold von Ranke’s dictum that the job of the historian is to show what really happened, how it was (”wie es eigentlich gewesen [ist]“), and to do that one goes to the archives and treats the documents as “facts.” That is a disputed view of the nature of historiography, something the CU committee never lets on, which either betrays that they were ill-equipped for such discussions, or that they were dishonest for not broaching these debates.”

  4. Ward Churchill was a propagandist for the KGB and later for Saddam.

    Didn’t you read the Volker Report? Saddam could buy food with his oil money, but he didn’t.

    Why didn’t Ward Churchill call for Saddam to be hanged instead of Madeleine Albright? Saddam was the one who starved his people.

    Why did Churchill “quote” Denis Halliday who supposedly said in the NYT in the fall of 1998 that the sanctions were causing genocide. Halliday was one of the main Oil-for-Food officials. He denied Saddam was corrupting the program to benefit himself.

    AIM got money from Saddam, that’s why Churchill is falsifying history. Why don’t you read the AIM site?

    It says this:

    “Through the IITC [International Indian Treaty Council, an arm of the AIM], cordial diplomatic relations were developed by 1979 with the Baath Socialist Party of Iraq. Through this relationship, substantial contributions were made to AIM…”

    http://legendofpineridge.blogspot.com/2009/04/ward-churchills-courtroom-blood-libel.html

    The Ward Churchill AIM is not for the Indians.

    Next month the trial of the killers of Anna Mae Aquash starts. Churchill’s propaganda has been protecting Russell Means, not Indians.

    Russell Means let an attack on Wounded Knee that resulted in murders, rapes, and the destruction of an entire Indian town.

    Ward Churchill supports attacking Indian people.

    The lawyer for the AIM during that attack, Mark Lane, had a relationship with the KGB.

  5. “The Trimbachs claim that much of what [ex-professor Ward Churchill] writes about AIM [American Indian Movement] is intended to insulate his friend [Russell Means] from being implicated in serious crime, such as the 1975 pre-mediated murder of AIM member Anna Mae Aquash. As stated in the Trimbachs’ book [American Indian Mafia], Means was involved in the cover-up, if not the planning and execution of the crime itself. ‘Aquash’s death was ordered by AIM leaders because they thought she was one of our informants,’ said the former FBI SAC. Churchill has claimed that the FBI was responsible for the murder. Said the younger Trimbach, ‘This charge from Churchill shows that not only is he a liar, he is also a party to covering up a murder involving his associate. Why would any University want to have someone like that on their payroll?'”

    http://legendofpineridge.blogspot.com/2009/04/former-fbi-chief-joseph-h-trimbach.html

    Former FBI Chief Presents Overlooked Evidence of Research Fraud Against Professor Ward Churchill:

    “AIM member John Graham, will stand trial for the murder of Aquash on May 12. Also on trial is Russell Means’ former bodyguard, Richard Marshall, accused of providing the gun used to shoot Aquash in the head. Marshall has already served time as the admitted murderer of Martin Mountileaux in 1975. Means was with Marshall when he shot Mountileaux in a bar in Scenic, South Dakota.”

    http://www.expertclick.com/NewsReleaseWire/ReleaseDetails.aspx?ID=26155&CFID=17351343&CFTOKEN=57149484

    Arlo Looking Cloud, who is already in prison for his role in this murder, is reportedly cooperating with the prosecution.

  6. Hey Snapple,

    Ask yourself one simple question…the one that you consistently refuse to ask yourself:

    If even a tiny fraction of what you said was even remotely true, then by what magical, superhuman, supernatural abilities does Ward Churchill evade prosecution or at least investigation by the authorities, especially when he was the leading national whipping boy?

    The link spam you can leave on your blog.

  7. Virtually every ounce of your post is absolute bullshit. Don’t you feel ashamed? Sorry, I forgot, of course you feel ashamed, that’s why you post anonymously. I don’t mind you being a coward, so much as I mind you fabricating at will — first Churchill is with AIM when convenient to you, then he is outside of AIM, when convenient. Now Russell Means massacred a whole town, and I assume the authorities were very happy with that, as they arrested and imprisoned Leonard Peltier, now for over a quarter century, on rather bogus charges with the thinnest of evidence (if you can call it that).

    But that’s ok, don’t let reality get in the way of a wonderful little conspiracy theory.

  8. According to Snapple, the implication is that there must be a massive conspiracy involving the FBI, the Federal Government, and various local police forces, to shield and protect Ward Churchill. So a national whipping boy is able to evade the authorities who apparently do not know as much as Snapple. Rather than search for a footnote to strangle Churchill and deny him a living, instead the “real truth” is that EVERYONE is conspiring to keep Churchill from being brought to justice.

    This is the depth of the idiocy of these people, especially on that libelous, freak show of a smear blog, Pirate Ballerina.

    People, try imitating Churchill in at least one regard: get a life.

  9. In all honesty, the comic relief is needed, but it is sad that Snapple cannot see the comedy in her own material.

    She says Churchill was a “KGB stooge.” Interesting. As recently as last week at Concordia, Churchill continued his condemnations of the Sandinista revolutionary government in 1980s Nicaragua for its treatment of the Miskito, Sumu, and Rama Indians on the Caribbean coast (or what Nicaragua calls its “Atlantic Coast”). He then underscored his dislike for Marxist socialism. The Soviet Union supported the Sandinistas. As a KGB stooge, Churchill was apparently not enough of a stooge. Surely, by now, KGB files are accessible which would prove Snapple’s case…but no, because her story would prefer not to be molested by either facts or reason.

    Next: Churchill and AIM received financial support from Saddam Hussein and set up links with the Baath Party in 1979. If true, Hussein was a U.S. ally then, and it is interesting to see a KGB stooge embrace a CIA stooge. Again, no need for facts, Snapple is pure obsession.

    And the pièce de résistance: Ward Churchill murdered JonBenet Ramsey. For sure, note when she was killed: it was on Mao’s birthday (now Churchill is a socialist again) and William Ayers’ birthday. Yes, that seals it. Clearly Churchill had to bathe himself with the blood of a randomly chosen child, instead of sending a simple birthday card.

    This same Snapple has not let one single news story or blog post about Churchill, that allowed for people to post comments, go without leaving her dirt stain of insane allegations on it. This is the kind of madness and deep, very deep stupidity that Churchill has been up against. Imagine people devoting their time to pumping out blogs that are exclusively about Churchill, one being Snapple’s at http://legendofpineridge.blogspot.com/, with the most recent post featuring a monster from a horror film, and new insinuations, that Churchill and Bin Laden say many of the same things.

    Hey Snapple, maybe they are the same person, and the real plans for 9/11 were symbolically announced by the murder of JonBenet Ramsey?

    See this piece of crap:
    http://legendofpineridge.blogspot.com/2009/04/ward-churchills-courtroom-blood-libel.html

    The other act of deranged obsession, a site almost as ugly in appearance as it is in its fecal content, is Pirate Ballerina at:
    http://pirateballerina.com/

    The master of that gutter is a Jim Paine, in his 50s, who has enough time on his hands to post garbage “Churchill news” that it suggests he may be on disability, an intellectual one for certain. When you don’t have a life of your own, you stalk someone else’s.

    One of his pets is Ernesto Vigil, who goes by the handle of “noj.” This genius, like the others there who know absolutely nothing about scholarship but wish to pontificate on the fine points of footnoting nonetheless, is also a source of outright fabrications and falsehoods. For example, in an attempt to smear both one of Churchill’s academic witnesses, and myself, “noj” stated that Peter Lang, a multinational publishing company that specializes in dense academic tomes, is a “pay for play academic vanity press.” First of all, by definition, if it is a vanity press it cannot be an academic press — imagine criticizing an academic without understanding the most basic principles of academic publishing, which is peer review. I also speak as someone who in fact served as a manuscript reviewer for PL. Secondly, no author pays Peter Lang Publishing a single cent. Thirdly, this maligns thousands of professors now, suggesting that none could be published otherwise. It is either utter ignorance or a complete lie. But nobody corrects “noj” because it is a gaggle of mutually admiring fools in a desperate competition to see who can make the most offensive and completely insane charge against anyone who fails to see the world in their narrow, dimly lit, ideologically rabid terms.

    They are very pathetic little creatures, whose own pettiness makes Churchill’s stature grow. This much they cannot realize, and so they serve a useful purpose for Churchill who can always turn to such types and say, ‘look at what I have as critics, delusional nuts.’ Mission accomplished.

    Finally, the best thing about the court case is this: not just that the jury was fair and independent, but that it was sane. And it is both sanity and a basic dignity that are both not in sufficient evidence within the fat folds of the greasy smear blogs above.

  10. I very much enjoy this blog. Speaking of occupation and genocide, I thought I would offer a content suggestion – the Women of Tibet film series. It consists of two out of a trilogy of well-made documentaries about the women of Tibet. They have both aired on PBS, and will air there again – for a schedule check the website. The first film in the series is “Gualyum Chemo – The Great Mother” (trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Fb_1hTECBw) and tells the compelling story of the life of Dekyi Tsering, the mother of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. The second in the series is “A Quiet Revolution” (trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qY8PEghB_Ng) and is about the amazing struggle and nonviolent resistance of 15,000 Tibetan women who took the streets of Lhasa to oppose the violent occupation by China. You can support these films and the making of the third film in the trilogy (currently under production) by buying copies of the DVD’s for yourself, your friends, and your family. They are priced for educators and institutions as well as individual viewers.

  11. You write:

    “According to Snapple, the implication is that there must be a massive conspiracy involving the FBI, the Federal Government, and various local police forces, to shield and protect Ward Churchill.”

    You must be afraid to take issue with what I actually say.

    The AIM murdered two FBI agents, so they don’t protect AIMsters like Ward churchill.

    The KGB defector Mitrokhin has written that AIM lawyer Mark Lane had a relationship with the KGB journalist Genrikh Borovik. A lot of what is in those files is still classified, but the British gave it to the FBI.

    The AIM are the ones who make up consipiracy theories about the FBI if you read Ward Churchill. In fact, Churchill wrote in the KGB mouthpiece that the FBI backed death squads that killed 342 Indians.

    What I know is that AIM murders Indians, rapes, and bombs. They destroyed the entire village of Wounded Knee, they stole people’s valuables, they kidnapped people and held them at gunpoint. their lawyers were white communists.

    AIM, led by Churchill’s friend Russell Means, ripped-off the Indians of Wounded Knee. Means may also be involved in the cover-up of the murder of Anna Mae Aquash. The trial starts in May.

    Ward Churchill is finished as a credible academic.

  12. No, Snapple, you should not have replied, not if this was going to be your reply. You would have done better to remain absolutely silent rather than write more of this foolish tripe.

    “The AIM murdered two FBI agents, so they don’t protect AIMsters like Ward churchill.”

    Oh but they must be protecting him: your very conspiracy theory absolutely hinges on this. If they were not protecting him, then they would have moved on him just as soon as they had access to all that credible information that is to be found in The Snapple Files. Your argument is that either, (a) the FBI does not know what you know to be true (which in reality means your arguments are without substance), or, (b) they do know but have a secret desire to shield one of the most demonized public figures of the past few years.

    “You must be afraid to take issue with what I actually say.”

    Right, and we can see just how afraid I have been, since you are actually taking issue with how I have taken issue with what you actually say. Excuse me, but you should develop the healthy habit of writing only when sober.

    I am teaching you how to argue, so I hope you pay careful attention and take good notes.

    “The KGB defector Mitrokhin has written that AIM lawyer Mark Lane had a relationship with the KGB journalist Genrikh Borovik. A lot of what is in those files is still classified, but the British gave it to the FBI.”

    And that implicates Churchill as a KGB stooge, does it? That someone he knew also knew someone who knew someone who was in the KGB. That is not just guilt by association, but it’s virtually guilt by six degrees of association. I also know someone who knows Barack Obama…just one person removed. Does that make me, a Canadian anarchist, an “Obama stooge”? Again, your argument is rubbish. If you understood that, you would not repeat it again.

    Also, nice job there of making assertions without sources. What I like is that it’s then people like you who question the credibility of Churchill’s footnotes…and you have none of your own.

    “Churchill wrote in the KGB mouthpiece that the FBI backed death squads that killed 342 Indians.”

    That seems like a very low number. And which KGB mouthpiece would that have been? Is it better or worse than the numerous CIA mouthpieces that you have?

    “What I know is that AIM murders Indians, rapes, and bombs. They destroyed the entire village of Wounded Knee, they stole people’s valuables, they kidnapped people and held them at gunpoint. their lawyers were white communists.”

    Again with the unmitigated bullshit conspiracy theory. If that were true, then Churchill not being prosecuted and imprisoned must mean that the authorities love him, or, more credibly, that what you say is complete bullshit.

    “Ward Churchill is finished as a credible academic.”

    So says some anonymous, non-academic, conspiracy theorist. Right Snapple, your opinion on what makes for a credible academic really matters to us.

  13. Snapple, don’t come here and post a ton of messages, and then run to cry about your treatment when you post at that freak, smear blog known as Pirate Ballerina — we already had some nut called “Fred” who did that a while back, he could not take what he got here and ran back to PB to post lies like you did.

    Thanks to your massive spam, and the numerous links, your messages are automatically placed into the spam queue by WordPress, not by me. The only way your message appeared today was because I went and found it, and approved it.

    You’re welcome.

    Comment moderation is also back on, so your comment will not appear immediately anyway.

    So please don’t now act like a big baby, have some dignity. Your messages make me laugh, I don’t fear them, so don’t flatter yourself if you think that now, all of a sudden, you were unable to post.

  14. That’s funny, because that link says absolutely NOTHING about either the CAIB or Ward Churchill.

    We covered this ground already: if he was a KGB plant, then he could not have been a good one by opposing the Sandinistas whom the USSR supported, and by consistently opposing Marxism and socialism. Now those are actual facts, not imagined ones backed up by irrelevant links.

    How many more times shall we repeat this before you get tired?

    PS: Snapple, guess who I found as a source of the allegations on the Internet? You. Multiple times, on almost every imaginable news story or blog post published by Churchill. Never an ounce of evidence to back up your claim, just the assertion, the bogus link, and the guilt by distant association.

    PSS: In case you have not figured this out yet — whatever he did that you consider to be unpatriotic and un-American, only increases my estimation of him. You really don’t know where you are here, do you.

  15. Hello Olivia,
    I was just wondering if you had an updated link to these documentaries on Tibetan Women. It seems as though the links you provided are no longer working. If you could redirect me, that would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
    -Pam

  16. Completely untrue! I was one of those authors who “did” submit a manuscript to Peter Lang-NY. Was it reviewed? Yes. Were the reviewers comments legitimate? Yes. Did Peter Lang ask me to revise my manuscript? Well, not completely. I was asked to reflect on the referees comments. Two days later I received a contract in the mail which included an additional page outlining how I might make payment in the sum of $3000 to Peter Lang-NY. So, regardless of whether you believe “academic” and “vanity” can or cannot be put together in the same context, they were for a hefty fee. My submissions editor at Peter Lang-NY explained how it was common for author’s to compensate for the high costs of production on titles. Having worked formerly as a PE at a small, Manhattan publisher, I can say this was not entirely truthful. But, should academic publishing be that easy? You pay a fee and your book is published? Call it what you may, but I cannibalized my monograph and sent it elsewhere. I met with good to average responses and finally found a mid-sized university publisher. Am I making huge sales on my monograph? No. Will my books be populating the stacks at BN and Borders? Not likely. Have I retained my integrity and limited my chance of being denounced by my peers and readers alike? Yes. Enough said.

  17. I have just completed an edited volume published with Peter Lang, coming out in the next 5 weeks. NOT ONE CENT is what I have been asked to pay, and that was true the last time as well. I have also served as an anonymous reviewer of a manuscript submitted to Peter Lang. Add those two together, and by definition it is NOT a “vanity” publisher. In terms of being asked to address referees’ comments…what’s the big deal? That is the exact same line I have been given by academic publishers! Do you expect that, if a reviewer completely disagrees with you because he/she has an entirely different perspective, that you simply surrender your own and take on theirs? No, there has to be a dialogue, a meeting of minds…this is what scholars supposedly do, right? Hence, “address the reviewers’ comments.” Again, why is this a problem?

    Sorry, I have no idea which Peter Lang you dealt with, but I have only dealt with Peter Lang USA, in New York, and nothing of what you wrote is even remotely true. Nor has anyone “denounced” my integrity, and the books have been praised by external readers who are the top of their respective fields.

    What I do know, from other authors who have sought out PL, is that they make authors pay if they are trying to publish their dissertations with PL (and here some German academic publishers do the same), and first time authors, or those who have never published a book and whose work is too oriented toward a micro-niche, and thus represent some profit risk to PL, have also been asked for payment. I don’t disagree with either of these policies, and they have nothing to do with “vanity publishing,” but rather surviving in a dying trade. I reiterate, I have never been asked for a cent, nor paid a cent to PL, and their support services have been extensive and extremely professional. Otherwise, I would not have gone to them a second time.

    Ultimately, what a real scholar does is to evaluate actual content, not the packaging. Thus even if EVERYTHING you said was correct, it would still be irrelevant. Your own statement is that your work was to be published by PL, but then went on to be published elsewhere. Apparently there was not much difference in opinion then. The allegation against Churchill, spurious and baseless as it is, is that any of his work published with PL is not “real scholarly work.” That’s a serious offense against the thousands of “real scholars” who have published with PL. Otherwise, as far as I am concerned, Ward can self-publish everything, it still makes a serious impact and deserves serious consideration.

    P.S.: In Canada, it is the norm among academic publishers to request a subsidy — either from the government or from the individual author — to defray production costs. I have been asked this upfront from a leading academic publisher, the University of Toronto Press, and turned down for the lack of a subsidy by McGill-Queen’s University Press. Does it mean they publish your book automatically? No. Payment is returned if the book does not pass review. But are they “vanity” publishers for asking for funds from authors? Academic publishers such as Polimetrica, also ask for authors to make payment, as well as some open access journals.

  18. Indeed, Peter Lang warned me that a subsidy would be askek between 2000 to 4000 euros, depending on the number of pages. It was the Brussels office.

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