What Did I Really Say? And Why Did I Say It?
Editors’ Note: The following is a the first written transcript of WARD CHURCHILL’s February 8, 2005 speech at the University of Colorado. CounterPunch thanks Clarke Iakovakis for laboriously transcribing the introductions by Emma Perez and Russell Means, Churchill’s speech and the rowdy Q&A. A video of the event is available online at: http://www.c-span.org/. –AC / JSC
Emma Perez: I’m Emma Perez; I’m the new chair of the Department of Ethnic Studies [applause]. I’m very proud to be the chair of the Department of Ethnic Studies; I’m very proud of my colleagues; I’m very happy and proud to stand here with my colleague WARD CHURCHILL, as well. So this is how it’s gonna run tonight, OK? First, we’ll be Russell Means will be introducing WARD CHURCHILL, Ward will speak for a little less than an hour, for about 50 minutes, the we’ll [inaudible] to questions. We’re gonna ask you to go to the mics and stand at the mics, and then where are the mics, folks? OK, stand in line at the mics, OK? And please be as orderly as possible. Also, we’ll ask you to be as succinct as possible, so don’t stand up there and give us a monologue, OK? [Laughter, applause] Be respectful. We’re here also to be respectful of each other, of each other’s ideas and thoughts. Also, this is a student sponsored event; the students have worked very hard and all people need to do is look around. Certainly I want the media to look around to see the kind of support there is for WARD CHURCHILL at this university [loud & long applause]. Thank you. The students have been amazing, and I also want to put in what we did at the Regent’s meeting last week, the students were silently and quietly protesting. [inaudible]
We’re a small department, Ethnic Studies, we’re a small unit, but we’re all very good scholars, and Ward is certainly one of those. Now I also want to stress I’m almost out of here I want to stress that we really want to have questions from the students. This is a forum that the students have given Ward so that he can finally state his ideas, his opinions, his book, which has been misrepresented, by the way, by the media. [applause] We will not be taking questions by the media. [loud applause & cheers] We’re gonna wrap up around 9:30, OK? Because we’re supposed to be out of here by 10, so we’ll start wrapping up around 9:30 after Ward speaks for about 50 minutes.
Now I give to you Russell Means where is Russell? By now you may have heard of him. [inaudible] He has also finished his doctorate, he also is a lawyer, practices law, and – on his reservation. He’s an amazing man, we’re very, very fortunate to have him here tonight. Let’s welcome him.
Russell Means: Thank you my relatives. I want to, first, apprise you before I introduce the many accomplishments of WARD CHURCHILL among my people. We are the only ethnic group in the world that has to prove our degree of blood, like the dogs and the horses. It is because we live on America’s concentration camps; the ‘little Iraqs’ called reservations, you know? We also don’t have control of our natural resources, and the corporate might has been ripping us off from day one. That’s part of the books, and part of the education that Ward has given not only to the university and its generations of students, but throughout the country and indeed, throughout the world. I want you to know that we are forbidden from choosing who are our Indian people, by the United States government. My own twin brothers were 32 years of age, and it was only after the American Indian Movement, and one of the leaders being WARD CHURCHILL in the late seventies, got the right to be enrolled on my father’s reservation, where I am enrolled. I wonder how many of Clear Channel columnists and naysayers are gonna condemn my brothers for not being Indian. Ward is my brother. Ward has followed the ways of indigenous people worldwide. If you do not believe so, then go to Geneva Switzerland, to the United Nations office of the working group of indigenous peoples, and you will find out that we as one people in the world, we say, if you know your ancestry, then you are who you say you are. [applause]
In the writings of Adolf Hitler, he began his idea of separation by race, in such a preference, by following and reading about the Indian policy of the United States of America, and he wrote in Mein Kampf, or in other writings, that it was a good idea to put people in reservations; hence his labor camps, hence which became concentration camps. And he classified people they did not want, by race. Apartheid South Africa, in 1964, passed the Bantu Development Act thirty years after the United States government passed the Indian Reorganization Act. The act that institutionalized apartheid, by race and degree of blood, in South Africa was literally copied from the Indian Reorganization Act of the United States. Both of those governments no longer exist, and you have these corporate minions from Clear Channel and the corporate media telling us who is our Indian leaders! Telling me that my brother is not an Indian! Because he hasn’t been adequately registered.
Now I am happy to understand the media can’t answer any questions here ask questions, because if Silverman was going to ask a question, I was going to demand he show me he’s pure of Jewish blood, before he could ask a question. [applause]
Now, understand our struggle. WARD CHURCHILL has understood it and you only have to read his dozens of essays and almost two dozen books that he’s written. I know the Regents aren’t going to get through them all. [laughter, applause] Those cowards. Those cowards that cannot stand up for women, and cannot stand up for the rights of teachers! [loud cheers & applause]
Ward has received many, many honors from the non-Indian world; but the biggest honor and the only honor we can give him, and we have, for dozens of years, is to make him what we call in my language [?], a leader, a statesman. And he’s going around the country with that label, and it is a true label. And I don’t care what Clear Channel says about or the Indianate says about his sixteenth, or three-sixteenths he’s what counts. [applause] And his writings are proof. You I cannot convey to you the amount of pride we have in WARD CHURCHILL, and the amount of pride he gives us the sovereignty he gives us, so that we can [inaudible] our young people. You just heard one here tonight, student here, that is walking tall because of WARD CHURCHILL. And the effect he’s had not only on Indian policy, but on the minds of the young people who are activists throughout our country, from coast to coast and beyond borders. The American Indian Movement, when we had a together leadership, we appointed him as an ambassador, and he traveled internationally representing us and all Indian people because we are a free people.
So I want, from this day forward, every media person nationally, internationally and locally to know that we have ascertained that WARD CHURCHILL is a full-blooded Indian leader. Thank you.
WARD CHURCHILL: Hello my relatives; you humble me. Bill Owens: do you get it now? [applause] If you can count on your toes, you’ll be able to count the percentage points of contribution to the budget the University of Colorado you and your ilk have reduced the taxpayer contribution to. It comes to seven. I do not work for the taxpayers of the state of Colorado. I do not work for Bill Owens. [applause] I work for you. [loud student cheers & applause] That’s my institutional role and I take it very seriously; I take the institution and its well being, its mission, it’s ability to perform that mission very seriously. That’s one piece. That’s where I am and that’s who’s invited me to speak. But here is another reality: I am not an abstract, detached academic. I have responsibilities and grounding in an actual community. I take those responsibilities very seriously in fact, they are preeminent. I don’t answer to Bill Owens; I don’t answer (in the sense that they think I do) to the Board of Regents. The Board of Regents should do its job and let me do mine. [applause] And if Tom Lucero and his friends want to debate the propriety of that, I welcome them to come and join an open dialogue. I have not yet been officially informed they are even having a meeting about me. I read it in the Rocky Mountain News, I watch it on TV, I understand I am being reviewed. I haven’t been notified of that in any official sense either. [audience boos]
But my [inaudible] as I said, is that I come from an actual community and I have responsibilities to that community. And it comes from what I was taught and the values that were imparted to me within that community, and a piece comes from a Muskogee elder by the name of Phillip Dare, which some of you older people in the room may actually even have heard speak on this campus; he’s a very important man. And he gave me certain instruction at one point, which had to do with the way I was raised, which was outstanding outside of my tradition; it was in my twenties before I was even allowed the opportunity, given the nature of the experience of my people at the hands of the United States. I was in my twenties before I was given any opportunity to make a direct connection , and Phil said that can be to your advantage: ‘You understand our ways you did not grow up in them, you understand them, you understand the values, you understand the issues and you are able to frame those because of the way you were raised in terms that are understood by others, and it’s your job, you take that, which your Creator gave you, and you follow that path. You make your words your weapons and you say things that you understand to be true, and you understand them clearly and you never, ever back up.’ And that’s what I do. [applause]
That is consistent. It was a Muskogee tradition. It’s consistent with a tradition of every person on this stage, and you know what? It’s also consistent with the tradition of Thomas Jefferson, and Akwambe Ankruma, and of any number of people from different cultures where integrity and truth are valued. This is held as an ideal. We share that in common. We share that in common in terms of an aspiration, but we also share that in common as an obligation.
Now a number of things have been imputed to me by what shall I call this? – the Boulder-Denver equivalent of The National Enquirer at this point, or The Star. Couldn’t make the case on the issue and so now my pedigree becomes the issue. Can you call me I got a very important question; I got a call today from an unregistered Irishman [laughter], -k- very important question: "Can you put me in touch with some of your buddies from Vietnam? We’re gonna send a film crew to your high school." These people haven’t seen me in forty years; they have nothing to do with this. The issue was not sustainable, so I am to become the issue, or later for that. Later for that. My identity does not come from some punk editorial page, editor of the Rocky Mountain News, or the Boulder Daily Camera [loud applause]
I am the man, it is said on the talk shock radio in the Denver area, who has called for the deaths of millions of Americans. Someone show me where I said that. I am the man who has justified what I consider to be natural and inevitable. You do not justify the natural or the inevitable, you may comment on it. You do not have to advocate it, you don’t have to justify it, you simply point to it.
And, no, I did not call a bunch of food service workers, janitors, children, firefighters and random passers-by ‘little Eichmanns.’ It says clearly in that passage, which perhaps I should’ve amplified further in terms of the connotation of ‘Eichmann,’ because I understood people would understand as I did what Eichmann symbolized, but apparently not. [laughter] It says clearly in that passage, the reference is to a technical corps of empire, the technicians of empire. Someone want to give me a coherent definition of technician by which someone is eighteen months old, or someone who serves food for a living or someone who pushes a broom or someone who is trying to save people in the building or someone who is just walking by, becomes a technician of any sort? Obviously I was not talking about these people. I was talking about some very specific technical technocrats who make this particular system hum, and I’m going to come back to that in a second. But the people at issue and these are the only people who have been raised the construction is fairly clear; I’ve been told it was a bad rhetorical device, well I don’t think so. You got a better rhetorical device, go use it. Make people think about this your way. This was mine. [applause] The people at issue, on that red herring, would be referred to by Don Rumsfield or Norman Black I mean, Schwartzkopff, any other people who stand at the podiums, the official forum to make pronouncements on behalf of the federal government of the United States, those people, or those firefighters, those service workers, those children would be referred to as something called ‘collateral damage.’ Not even as human beings. And that was implicit to the formulation.
And now I need to come back, a little bit, to what my argument actually was, once the diversion to one phrase out of one sentence, out of a 120 page essay, out of 24 published volumes, seventy book chapters and one hundred jury journal articles. That one little phrase. I’ll come back to it. What did I really say? And why did I say it? Well there were certain questions being posed on the day that I wrote that essay. Before the building even came down, when I watched it in real time, I heard the whole thing described as ‘senseless.’ Not it ‘seemed senseless,’ it ‘might be senseless,’ no. Here’s how you’re gonna frame and understand this: it’s ‘senseless.’ And I’m saying to myself, how could they possibly know this? Did they arrange it? No, I’m not making that accusation. The point is clear, however, they couldn’t possibly know that it was senseless. Senseless means to have no purpose. Do you really believe that this operation was carried out for no purpose? You can agree with the purpose, you can disagree with the purpose, but you can’t rationally consign this to having no purpose whatsoever. What might that purpose be? [applause]
Well I come from a certain context; I come from a certain set of experiences.
They’re real experiences; they’re not abstract experiences. And based on those experiences, I do a little kid’s game called dot-to-dot. This dot connects to that dot connects to that dot, and hey, if you connect the dots you get a pattern, and actually on that pattern you start to understand something. Let me take the first dot.
You were addressed by someone from the Pine Ridge Reservation a few moments ago. There’s a county on the Pine Ridge Reservation: Shannon County. Shannon County has been the absolute poorest county in the United States for fifty of the last fifty years. And by poorest, I don’t mean unable to afford to get the new color TV, ‘Gee whiz, I can’t trade my truck.’ I’m talking about a per capita income of less than $3,000 per year to try to survive South Dakota winters. I’m talking about an unemployment rate that runs into the ninetieth percentile every year. I’m talking about a life expectancy that’s one-third shorter generation-in, generation-out than the average American. One-third truncation of a life span, and that’s the overall data with regard to reservation based native North America. Urban based is not appreciably better. That’s thirty-fifth percentile attrition of a population, and every generation for the last five generations. I don’t know how you define a genocidal impact of policy imposition, but that comes real close in my book, OK? I call it genocide. [applause] It comes to a degree of impoverishment that results in a continuous tone of death from malnutrition, nutritionally related diseases. Continuous tone of death and immiseration from rarely communicated diseases. I’m talking about a third-world degree of impoverishment of an entire people, based on the racial definition imposed on us us by the federal government of the United States in behalf of each imagined constituency, which includes everybody else. Not on an even playing field, but in gradients. And a degree of impoverishment devolves from something called plenary power, that the federal government has assigned itself if there’s any law professors in the room, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Plenary power, in plain English rather than legalese, means absolute, unchallengable power to make disposition of our affairs and our assets. With that, they’ve assigned themselves a trust authority over those assets. When those assets are exploited by American corporations, they’re exploited in a discount royalty rate, discount deep ninety percent they’re paying ten cents on the dollar for what they’d be paying on the open market for the minerals, and the money does not go to the people who’s minerals they were. It’s placed in trust accounts administered by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Do you wanna know where the Indian destitution comes from? Do you wanna know why our life spans are truncated accordingly? Do you wanna know why our children are so desperate that they are committing suicide at fourteen times the national average? Do you wanna know why all those things come together? Right now there’s a case in the federal courts [inaudible], in which it is conceded that the Bureau of Indian Affairs in combination with the Treasury Department of the United States government has "misplaced" one hundred and fifty billion dollars worth of assets. Cash, money. By federal account, there’s two million Indians. You wanna divide two million into one hundred and fifty [billion] dollars and see what our standard of living would be if it wasn’t being spent on designer overpasses? If it wasn’t being spent on the accoutrements of the quality of life that every American yuppie has decided that they are divinely entitled to enjoy? [applause] Does that make me angry? Yeah, it does. Churchill’s angry, he speaks angrily, he speaks forcefully. I don’t think the issue however is why Churchill would be angry about that. The question is why Governor Bill Owens and the Board of Regents are not, and they have nothing to say on it. [applause]
And I link that up, in my mind, to what was then pronounced to be approximately five hundred and sixty-five thousand Iraqi children who had died needlessly in less than five years. By needlessly, they too were dying of nutritionally related illnesses. They too were dying of readily curable diseases, because of a set of sanctions that the United States hoisted off the pretext of it being UN and imposed in order to make the people themselves scream to the point where they would compel their leadership to become "free," as defined by George Herbert Walker Bush, meaning, to understand that "what we say, goes." This was no mystery. This was official, UN report it was confirmed. It was known, to be confirmed, by Madeline Albright, US ambassador, at the time, to the United Nations, on no less public a venue than 60 Minutes in 1996. Leslie Stahl asked her, are you aware of this, this half-million plus children of another people. And she said, yes, we’re aware, we’ve decided it’s worth the price. It’s worth the price, in somebody else’s children to ensure that they get the message that "what we say, goes."
And I thought about my brother Russell Means, in 1982, when we were engaged in a physical occupation of a piece of ground outside Rapids City. I learned from Russ, too, not just Phillip Dare. That was 1982, that was the time of the Battle of Beirut, and they had the PLO fighters sealed in and they were bombarding Beirut, and they were gonna kill Arafat, OK? They had a quid pro quo arrangement where he could go for sanctuary if he could leave, but no one could take him. And Russ convened a press conference and he said something that had to be pretty close to this: the Palestinians of North America offer sanctuary to the American Indians of the Middle East. We have that relationship; those dots are connected. [applause]
Now I was picking that up on 9/11, basically in streams of consciousness because they were asking this question ‘How could this happen? Why do they hate us?’ and my response is, look at this. How could they not? Every Palestinian child shot in the head for throwing a rock at the intifada is being shot with munitions provided by the United States; the munitions are being shot by a rifle provided by the United States. When they look up and see those helicopters that are taking out apartment blocks because they suspect that somebody they don’t like is in there, collateral damage ensues. The helicopter and the missile are provided by the taxpayers of the United States and, you see, the problem is not just that the materiel, the monetary support and the political endorsements provided by the government of United States, but there’s this overwhelming embrace of the policy by the general citizenry of the United States, and this tallies. This tallies in tens, and scores, and hundreds of thousands, and then millions and tens of millions of darker skinned others being piled up in the name of profit maximization, stability, for the strategic interests, and ultimately, economic interests of the United States.
Actually, I talked about ‘Chickens coming home to roost,’ after Malcolm X, but these chickens, I said, were more like ghosts. And I talked about those ghosts; the Iraqi ghosts first, the children. But then, there’s another half-million adults in a country of twenty million people. And I talked about the Palestinians, and I talked about the Grenadans, and I talked about the Panamanians, and I talked about the Salvadorans and the Nicaraguans, and I talked about the Guatemalan upland Mayans, and I talked about the bodies that were stuffed in a well at No Gun Ri, and I went backwards from Korea to a couple of nuclear bombings. We’re worried about weapons of mass destruction in a country that has the largest inventory in the world, and the only country that has ever used them on civilian targets, and intentionally on civilian targets. [applause] And pointed it out that while the nukes are best known, they weren’t the worst of it, Curtis Lemay’s carefully orchestrated fire raids conducted in the spring of 1945. At Tokyo, in one night alone, they inflicted 110,000 casualties, cremated civilians intentionally, they built burn-zones out in Utah to figure out the best way to ignite wooden paper cities. This was deliberate, intentional; this was a matter of policy. Probably a half-million Japanese were burned alive in a process of sending the message so that they too would understand that "what we say, goes." [applause] And back to the liberation of the Philippines from the Spanish Empire to make it an American colony and the deaths of 600,000 of 1.5 million so-called ‘moral’ is a pejorative term. [Tagaun?] speakers, called the Indians of the Philippines, entire provinces deliberately cleared of population by virtue of liquidating them, orders signed by American military leadership to kill every single male over ten years of age oh yeah, they didn’t teach you that in high school history, did they? And Bill Owens doesn’t want you taught about that now. [applause]
And that happened ten years after Wounded Knee, and the reconstituted Seventh Cavalry [inaudible] disarmed it’s guns and immobilized people, butchered in the snow and dumped into a mass grave. And I actually used the imagery from Wounded Knee in a book on comparative genocide, juxtaposing the dumping of the bodies into the mass grave at Wounded Knee and the dumping of the bodies into mass graves by the Einsatz group in Eastern Europe, and people sometimes get them confused which is which. The symbolism and the reality are confused. The reality is what’s at issue, and taking that string of massacres, running all the way back to when a group of people now known as the Wappinger, who supposedly sold Manhattan Island to the Dutch for a handful of glass beads and trinkets, objected to the idea that they sold their land, because what they understood they did, was accept rental payment for use of a particular portion of Manhattan Island as a trading center, which they could do business with the Dutch. And the Dutch, who knew fully well that this had not been a sale, but rather a rental, resolved the issue by sending a military expedition up the island to dispense with the Wappingers. Doing so, so rapidly, that they felt that no one would believe how successful they’d been when they went back, so they took the heads of the fighting age males and the leadership, and carried them back in woven baskets to display to make proof of the fact that they had butchered the lot. And the citizenry was so happy they gathered around to watch a jolly sporting contest, kickball, in which the heads of the slain owners of the land were used as a ball. Roughly on a place where the foundation of the World Trade Center was situated.
That’s the history of the place, which sits approximately at the end of Wall Street; we know about Wall Street in terms of its economic importance, its influence, its symbolic value. What most of us don’t know is that it takes its name from the wall of a slave enclosure, which formed the economy of the city, which is now considered the economic head of empire. That’s the history of those ghosts; those transatlantic ghosts were there, too. And the Chinese that laid the track of the railroad and did the deep shaft mining, who had not a ‘Chinaman’s chance’ of surviving yeah, that’s where that term comes from. Oh yeah, they were all there. There was a load of karma too.
And what I said was when you treat people this way, when you kill their babies as a matter of force and say it has no consequence, when you devalue, deviate and degrade others to this point, naturally and inevitably what you’re putting out will blow back on you, and that’s what happened on that day. [loud cheers & applause]
And the question, the question was in everybody’s lips as they wind ‘innocent American’ as if they fused it into all one word. If by American, by definition, we’re innocent; that no matter what it is we do in the world, what we embrace, what the consequences are: we’re Americans, we’re innocent; we’re consequential, they’re valueless; get the symmetry straight. How do we keep ourselves safe from this sort of thing coming back? Oh, how could they do this? They hate our freedom, they’re evil. Tiger cages in Guantanamo Bay, licensing of torture techniques (which we have Harvard constitutional lawyers now arguing should be permissible), deploying of more and more Delta units, commando teams, assassination squads, counter-terrorism, wanding the people, they wanded me apparently to see that I wouldn’t commit suicide while standing at the podium tonight. [laughter] Actually I’ve got my 357 terrorism weapon right here in my bed for all the good it did impounding my tweezers did not save anyone. Who heard the last time an aircraft was kidnapped by a terrorist using tweezers, plucking the eyebrows of a frantic stewardess? I mean, that’s the level of insanity we are; when you get serious about security and some aspects of it are security you think that’s gonna work against people who are embittered and hate you for the (very good) reason that you’re butchering their children with presumed impunity? Ask the Israelis. They’ve got the most highly perfected, developed security state on the planet, and you got fourteen year old kids walking in there with bundles of dynamite and blowing them right out [inaudible]. You want to put your well being, and that of your children, on a system and structure and a set of priorities like that? Go ahead, but count me and mine out, OK? [applause]
If you want to be secure, if you want to be able to live a human life, in all of its full dimension, if you want to have the security of that to pass along to your children, if you want to be valued, in other words, as a human being, I don’t want to get Biblical here, but do unto others as you would expect to have done unto yourself. That’s my first proposition. [applause] If you want to be secure from that natural and inevitable response to what it is America’s putting out on the world, start with stopping the killing of their babies. Afford them the fundamental dignity of being human, not ‘collateral damage.’ And America’s been able to provide the world with an endless stream of glowing rhetoric, but how, on that basis since they’ve violated all of it, since they’ve always said one thing but acted precisely the opposite is anyone out there going to believe anyone here if those insurances are made? Here’s my real, crushing blow. Here’s the real radical finale of the whole thing: let’s just try pretending for a moment that the United States of America, like every other entity on the planet, is bound to obey the law. [loud applause, standing ovation]
That’s my argument reduced to its bare bones. I can flesh it out in Q & A; I’m not the Board of Regents, we will have interchange, you will not be arrested for attempting to engage in it. [loud applause] But understand, since that is as it was, I had every right to say it, indeed the obligation, not only as a citizen but under the terms of my contract, and as a human being. I’m not backing up an inch; I owe no one an apology. [loud applause]
Clarification’s one thing; that’s my job, too. Apology’s another. For those who have been trying to elicit that, in some cases, I think, have simply been asking the wrong question. Wanting to know if I experienced sorrow or mourning; something like that with regard to the children who died on the aircraft and in the buildings on 9/11 that day. And the answer is: Yes, of course; and for the firefighters and for all the food service workers, and for the broom pushers and for the random passers-by; yeah, I do. And it’s absolute, it’s unequivocal, and it’s not one whit more proportionally significant than the mourning, the sorrow I experience for every single one of those Iraqi children, for every single one of those Palestinian children; [applause] none of whom have been mentioned in the criticism in any way at all, it’s a one track record leading back to 9/11 victims and nothing else. I even had an Air Force colonel tell me about the last group of people who [inaudible] a civilian occupied facility, meaning the hijackers of 9/11. Afghanistan and Iraq either didn’t happen, or the people there weren’t. I’ll show you that e-mail. And even if, seriously, he did not mean it maliciously, that is a genocidal mentality; that is the core of the problem. When I start hearing equal sorrow for those brown skinned others out there dying in the millions, maybe we’ll get to someplace where all the children will be saved and all the people will be saved. [applause]
And I learn from where I am. I am not Cheyenne, but this is Cheyenne land, and I have been here as long as many of you have been alive, and I’ve learned something about their ways. It’s about the picket pin and stake. Sometimes you stand up because there’s an attack coming, and you stake yourself to the ground so you can’t get out; you can’t retreat. That’s your statement. It comes with red paint. Well, there’s no red paint here literally, but see it now. I drove my picket stake, my picket pin is in. I’m staked out, there is not an inch of give in this, not at this level of whether I get to speak, what I say when I speak, or what the function of this institution is, all right? This institution needs to be protected from the ravages of the rabid right wing, but it has to be protected on the grounds to save the institution itself. [loud applause, standing ovation]
With that, I think we got commonality, we got solidarity, we got everything we need to prevail and keep this institution what it is what it’s supposed to be, and actually to improve it. We can what doesn’t kill you, they say, gives you strength. We come out of this stronger, and clearer about what our institutional mission and our rights are than we went in, in the first place, and on that score, we ought to be thanking O’Reilly, we ought to be thanking Joe Scarborough, we ought to be thanking Kevin Flynn, we ought to be thanking the yo-yos in the local paper, and we ought to be thanking the Board of Regents and Governor Owens as well. [loud applause, standing ovation]
You all give me hope! You all give me hope. Power to the people! I’m just gonna take these in no particular order; not feeling greatly professorial at the moment, so you got a question, just rotate among yourselves, back and forth. As it was requested, keep it short so more questions can be asked.
Question #1: I’ll go ahead. My name is [inaudible], I had a question. One of the issues that have not been discussed in recent discourse is the question of freedom of speech and academic freedom, and what this means especially in a university system, where ideas are supposed to be discussed openly and freely. Would you please add comments to this?
WARD CHURCHILL: Yeah. I won’t summary, but I will refer you to a document that’s central to this institution called The Rules of the Regents of Colorado, OK? And it says quite specifically in intent and definitions section, that any faculty member that says anything anything is explicitly to be protected from political repercussions of what it is they said. That is an impermissible gesture to intent to suppress political speech in any form under the rubric of the University of Colorado. That’s not a guideline; that’s a matter of law. Yeah. It’s not been framed that way; you need to understand that. That forms the basis of the contract of every faculty member at the institution, tenured or no. You are required to do, and permitted to do certain things, contractually, in accordance with the rules of the regents. It’s called contract law. It is legally binding. There is no magic line articulated, beyond which one steps and the people who politically disagree with it are empowered to remove you. That is the absolute, fundamental bedrock upon which the academic Oedipus stands. And I have defended people who I consider to be taking upon Nazis on that basis. And I actually find them useful; they’re the perfect foils for my arguments. Let them carry their own case; people need to hear from them in order to form opinions, just like they need to hear from me. [applause]
Question #2: I am not a student, I’m a father of a student, but I’d like to make a brief statement here. In 1969, I had the honor of sharing the stage with Russell Means at the University of Minnesota Kaufmann Center, with him and the Ojibwa and my Lakota brothers, as a Vietnam veteran, as a member of the Vietnam veterans against the war. It’s rather prophetic that we’re sitting here thirty years later talking about another unjustified war. My concern is, I may or may not disagree with you, sir, but I defend the right for you to say whatever you wish to say in terms of academic freedom. [applause]
WARD CHURCHILL: That’s all you need to do, and in the process of that, we can talk, and in the process of talking, both our minds may change. But if we can’t talk, if one or the other of us is forbidden, that can’t happen. [applause]
Question #2: If there is no dialogue, there is war. [applause]
Question #3: Professor Churchill, I’m a grad student here on campus, and, um, perhaps you can clear up a question that I had. Is this attack upon you in any way related to the acquittal of you and the other protesters for the protest Columbus Day?
WARD CHURCHILL: Funny you should ask. [laughter] What do you think?
Question #3: Well, I believe the city is out to get us, anyway, but I’d like to hear what you have to say on the matter, please.
WARD CHURCHILL: Yeah, it was a target of opportunity. The line run on me, right now this is a weird position to be in, OK – I don’t know what their selection process was, but this is the kickoff, and it’s been stated by Newt Gingrich and it’s been stated by David Horowitz, and it’s been stated by Joe Scarborough and for that matter, it’s been stated by certain members of the Board of Regents, and the governor, and the legislature of the state of Colorado. This is the opening round and intended general purge of diverging ideas of which they do not approve. And it’s already happening it was mentioned that there will be a rally for Adrienne Anderson tomorrow. I don’t know how many people know the nature of what it is that happened with Adrienne, but her contract was non-renewed despite the fact that there was overwhelming student enthusiasm for what it was she was teaching. She was rated by her peers, as well as students, as an outstanding teacher, including by the guy who deep-sixed her, who noted in a caveat at the bottom of the evaluation that said she is excellent classroom teacher; she engages the students, compels critical inquiry and all the rest, but, he says, I wonder how this information will be received by the son or daughter of one of the upper division management at Coors. [boos] Understand the message: if you’re going to offend the offenders, you’re not to be allowed to talk about it, which means the offenses are not to be interrogated, examined, understood, corrected. That’s the object. That’s the Republican agenda they’ve articulated. Frankly, I don’t consider these guys to be Republicans. There’s an ‘N’ word, ending in ‘i’ that I think is more appropriate, but hey, I use that analogy too often. [laughter, applause]
Bill Owens says I’m not qualified for my job, excellent scholar that he is; overarching authority on the subject matter [laughter, loud applause] Calls for my job on that; I should resign, he says, or be fired, well I’ll return the compliment. [loud applause] At least, Bill, learn how the budget works and how to read the constitution before you purport to speak on behalf on about half of the voters of the state of Colorado who voted against you, buddy. [applause]
Question #4: I’m glad I came here tonight; I’ve heard a lot more than I heard on the average sound bytes we’ve been hearing on the radio. I agree with some points, there are other points that I disagree with, but I do believe you have a constitutional right to say what you have to say. On the other hand, do you agree that the First Amendment rights for the people marching in the Columbus Day parade should be taken away, because that is their freedom of expression as well, and I’m one of those people.
WARD CHURCHILL: Let me answer the man. No, I don’t believe you have a First Amendment right because that bounces off against my Ninth Amendment right. You know what my Ninth Amendment rights are? Do you know what the Ninth Amendment says?
Question #4: No, sir.
WARD CHURCHILL: Yeah. Do we have a law professor in here? I think this is a lesson for law school, because I addressed another university auditorium with about this many people in it last week, and I posed the same question to the whole group. Professors, students, townspeople and all, not a soul, including law professors, could tell me what the damn Ninth Amendment said. [laughter] S’pose there might be a reason for that?
Question #4: Sir, sir, sirdoes that negate the First Amendment?
WARD CHURCHILL: No, no, wait a minute; let’s get an answer to it.
Audience Member: Basically it says that whatever rights were not given to federal government are given to the states.
WARD CHURCHILL: Actually, wrong, beep. [laughter] What it says, in very close paraphrase, is that all rights not otherwise enumerated herein that are inherent in people are retained by them, OK? You can have a real entertaining time looking at the nature of those rights as articulated, and it can be rather nebulous and it can be debatable, but I’ll tell you one place you can look where it’s not debatable at all and that’s in black letter legal articulation. That goes to human rights, particularly the articulation of international human rights that take the form of ratified treaties. Under Article Six of the Constitution of the United States, those are the supreme law of the land, and among them, are fundamental human dignity, OK? And celebration of the conditions that I was describing as pertaining to native people as an outcome of the process initiated by Christopher Columbus, celebrating that guy in any respect at all is a celebration of those conditions. That’s a denial of fundamental human dignity, that’s a denial of my Ninth Amendment rights and you don’t have a right to do that, and you know exactly what you’re doing. [applause]
Question #4: I beg to disagree, and I’d love to debate that issue, and my right to be here as an American, who is every much an American as you are, or anybody up on that podium
WARD CHURCHILL: We’re not going to debate; you asked a question, I answered it. Next party. You want a debate, we’ll set it up; it will be separate from this forum.
Question #4: Thank you.
WARD CHURCHILL: You’re welcome.
Question #5: Uh, Ward, apparently, uh, Dustin over here thought it’d be necessary for to send his goonies over here to keep me from speaking, um, but I’m glad, I’m glad he, uh, went over here and is letting me speak. Thanks, Dustin [audience boos, laughs] Also, you seem to come down against the ‘technocratic corps,’ you’ve called it. Uh, you’ve compared them to ‘little Eichmanns,’ but, but not the food service workers, not the janitors, and what not
WARD CHURCHILL: Woah, speak slower so I can hear you. You got time to frame your question. Don’t take too much time, but take enough time that I can understand it.
Question #5: You seem to come against the technocratic corps. The students here, virtually every one of us, we’re not training here we aren’t studying here to become food service workers or janitors. So, are we also ‘little Eichmanns?’
WARD CHURCHILL: That’s your choice.
Question #5: What about the men and women in the towers who were your ‘little Eichmanns"? Did they all choose to be these "little Eichmann?’
WARD CHURCHILL: That’s your choice.
Question #5: And what out of us, how would we choose not to be a "little Eichmann, what would we be saying?
WARD CHURCHILL: You’re not to make a speech, you were to pose a question. You posed it; I’ll answer it, OK? When you knowingly accept the collateral effects of business practice as usual, projected by the United States into the rest of the planet, and even if you don’t agree with it, contribute your expertise, your technical ability, your proficiency to furthering the process of extermination of masses of children, for your own personal gain and benefit, to fit into the structure, without challenging it, you are, in the Hannah Arendt metaphysical sense of Eichmann, Eichmann.
[loud cheers and applause]
Question #5: So, just for clarification
WARD CHURCHILL: No, now you’re done. You asked a question, I answered the question, OK? Next person. That’s the rule. You don’t have a special [inaudible]; I won’t deny you your speech. Same rules for everybody.
Question #5: OK, I guess if you want to shed your responsibility, you go ahead and do it.
Question #6: Um, something that really rang true with your speech is that you don’t work for Bill Owens, you work for us, and with that in mind, just, like, simple consumer, and you are the producer, you supply here. If, by chance, there was a way to work it out where the consumer could voice their opinion in a voting manner, and, whichever way it goes, vote on whether we want you to freely express it, (and I have faith, looking around), would you accept that decision? If, either way?
WARD CHURCHILL: I don’t see how it would work, but if you get some concrete plan, you come talk to me. I’m not gonna accept something I don’t understand on its face. The principle is sound, but I don’t understand the mechanism.
Question #6: If, by chance, it was in the same student elections that happen every year and, granted, there’s not very high participation, which is a negative sign, would you accept the results?
WARD CHURCHILL: Actually, I think I do understand what you’re saying and, no, my position, that is my job, my responsibility, my obligation, what I was hired to do is not a popularity contest or subject to the political will of any constituency. I work for you in the sense that 80% of my salary is paid by you, at least. The taxpayers subsidize 7%. That’s six thousand bucks. The tuition formulae here is such that a faculty member teaching twenty-five student load, breaks even, institutionally. I teach on average eighty-five. I’ve returned money to the general fund every year I’ve taught here. They’re in the negative numbers on me, guy. But my obligation to you is to be clear; it’s not to equivocate my position or have you remove me if you don’t like the position. If you don’t like the position, there’s other classes. There are students who benefit from mine. [applause] Okay we got about I don’t know, I can’t tell how many I’m gonna take about four or five more questions and I’m gonna quit. I’m basically fatigued, you can hear my voice is going, I’ve been teaching classes all day and I’m starting to get blurry, and I don’t want to give incoherent answers. I want to give sharp answers to as many questions as I can and then stand down. So four, maybe five depending on the questions.
Question #7: I was just wondering, where do you get the gall to call the people who died in 9/11 technocrats, when you sit around and get a $90,000 paycheck from the government you purport to hate?
WARD CHURCHILL: To answer the question, to answer the question yo, he’s posed a question, I’ll answer the question. And it really goes to the question of "hey, sucker, you consider yourself innocent?" No. You show me where I ever said. What I said was I tend to fly more on these gigs than the average American, making myself more susceptible to being strapped in a passenger seat on a 300,000 pound cruise missile. I’ve been every moment of my adult existence in flat-out opposition, in every way I knew, to the status quo of this country, but I have not changed it. And to that extent, I have not measured up to the responsibility, I am not innocent, and I’m subject to the same penalty, and that’s the answer to your question, and you don’t get a second. [applause]
Question #7: You do admit your hypocrisy?
WARD CHURCHILL: Sit down. You barely don’t understand the language, to understand, that was the opposite of hypocrisy. Over here, sir.
Question #8: Good evening to you. First and foremost, I want to say that Shareef Aleem couldn’t make it. He was the gentleman that was arrested, uh, for his for what they called was a ‘violent act.’ And I want you to know that we were on the Internet looking at it, and even in Saudi Arabia, they picked it up, and they see it and they know that this was a farce, this is a game to get rid of you. And I want you to know from [inaudible] perspective, we down with you, we with you, we got your back, we don’t choose to be activists by choice, we’re forced into it by situations like these, for our children. And I just want you to know, I’ve been to jail with you for the demonstrations on Columbus Day, and I was proud to do it, you know, and I didn’t realize until two years ago that my grandmother was Navajo, so I got your back more than you know. And for those out here who got problems with it for lack of knowledge, you perish. And no [inaudible] in this world is gonna save you when Hell comes to you. Peace be with you. [applause]
WARD CHURCHILL: You tell Shareef I’ll be talking to him tomorrow, anyway, I’ve been trying to get in touch, but it’s been hard because these guys consider their livelihood to be my obligation to feed. They never get anything I say straight anyway [laughter]
Question #9: First I want to, ah, thank you, Doctor Churchill, thank you.
WARD CHURCHILL: Thanks are not necessary, actually. I appreciate it, but I am simply trying to meet my obligations and responsibilities as best I can, and that’s the truth of it.
Question #9: Uh, forgive me for the prepared statement; I’m just a graduate student, I haven’t figured it all out yet, right? [laughter]
WARD CHURCHILL: We’re gonna elect you governor, you keep it up. [laughter]
Question #9: Only if you stump for me, Ward. And this is actually for all the, uh, the folks that have been calling for Ward’s head on a pike. It is with grave urgency and humble deference that I approach you at this dark hour. It appears that one of our great scholars, activists and friends is falling prey to an antiquated government of Winthropianism. WARD CHURCHILL deserves support from the community which he has served with noble courage and pioneering resolve. How can we, the community Dr. Churchill has forged out of his own years and tears, abandon him at the ‘city on a hill’ which he has sought to make level for all. I implore you to recall the days when radical women took to the streets to demanding their inalienable rights to suffrage. Has history vindicated these women? Or like these women’s heroes, Anne Hutchinson and Mary Dyer, is Dr. Churchill to burn? What are those people
WARD CHURCHILL: Excuse me, no disrespect, but I’ve got to be same rules for everybody, OK?
Question #9: Last sentence. It’s a statement for those of us who were shut out at the Regent’s office. What are those people who seek punitively to censor and banish the man, who has unselfishly, for decades advocated and compromised himself for the equality of indigenous Americans, African-Americans and many
WARD CHURCHILL: Really, I appreciate it and would like to have a copy, but honestly. [applause] Two more, one on each side, OK?
Question #10: I’ll keep it quick, I promise. I’m here tonight as a student of Ward’s, both present and past, and I just want all of the media, and all of the students here to know this man is an excellent teacher and that’s why we should be here, and that’s why we should be supporting him. I’ve read just about ten of his books, and if people actually picked them up, did the research and did the readings, they’d realize what he was actually about. So, that’s just what I wanted to say. [applause]
WARD CHURCHILL: Thank you.
Question #11: Good evening, sir. It’s a great honor to actually be here and to be able to talk to you. I drove from Laramie to come see you speak because I thought that everything that was being said about you on the news could not be true, because if it was true, you would’ve never been allowed to teach. I am the type of person I read the coverage in the paper of the Iraqi people who have been killed and I will throw up. I want to ask you, did you ever think that a sentence out of your essay that you had written, out of the volumes that you have written, would ever be taken out of context like this, would ever have been blown out of proportion like this, and that we would be standing here today?
WARD CHURCHILL: Honest answer to that is no. No, it’s a weird position to be in, but it’s a position I’ve been put in, it’s a responsibility that’s been put in my face, on my shoulders, however you want to look at it, and I’m not gonna back away from it. I’m not gonna back away from it.
This is sort of a closing thing, I was asked to say and it’s something I should have said it myself in my talk, so let me back off the podium with this statement. Clarification again, if you will. I ended the piece and I ended my presentation with a call for, take your pick, law enforcement or obedience to law. And that begins right here. That begins with the honoring, the obedience to the treaties with the indigenous peoples whose land we all stand on. It begins here. If you can’t do that one, you can’t do any of them. You do the one that’s toughest for you yourself first, and the rest of them is a downhill slide. Get used to the idea. You’ve gotta have a lawful right, or you gotta have a collaborative interaction with the people whose property you occupy. You can’t starve the children to death in the name of a pretension to ownership and jurisdiction over someone else’s land.
Audience Member: Does a cowboy have a right to speak?
WARD CHURCHILL: You would’ve if you’d been one further up in the queue, guy, but it’s over now, so, sorry.