Saturday, March 05, 2005

 

Hmmm

From Ward Churchill's essay dealing with the death of his wife Leah Kelly, comes this paragraph detailing their plans once they'd been married (she was 24 at the time, he was much, much older):

"I'd base myself in San Francisco for the fall, commuting to-and-from Denver to teach my three days per week's worth of classes at the University of Colorado. In December, Leah would move to Boulder and I'd arrange her admission at the University of Colorado. We'd live together in my house there and I'd support her living while she completed her undergraduate degree. After that, she'd take a job in some aspect of cinema and/or go to grad school. As she established her career, I'd begin phasing out of mine, turning an increasing share of our financial burden over to her. Perhaps I'd take early retirement and devote myself to writing, maybe even start painting again. Perhaps I'd secure an end-of-career position at a university in or near Winnipeg. In either event, we'd eventually move there. She'd be our primary breadwinner making movies or something similar, we'd buy a big house in an older neighborhood, possibly raise a kid or two. We were in for the long haul." ( Dark Night Press / Print: Residential Schools ยป Kizhiibaabinesik A bright star, burning briefly)

So we have a tenured professor at the University of Colorado planning to up stakes and move to Canada ("and take Canada with you when you go," as he said of his choice of future residence...) with his actual Native wife Leah Kelly, who would die in horrible circumstances in 2000. The planned move to Canada obviously never happened, but that isn't the interesting thing about this extremely interesting paragraph.

1. A man old enough to be the father of the woman he was seeing was planning to retire and live off her earnings, giving him enough leisure time to "start painting again."

2. Leah Kelly, conveniently an actual Native woman, came in to his life at a time when his identity as a Native American was first being called into active question by the leaders of the American Indian Movement Grand Governing Council. A man named Steve Jackson interviewed Churchill in 1994, and wrote that at the time Churchill "was still smarting from the loss of his role as an 'American Indian artist,' as well as allegations that his claims to an American Indian heritage were fraudulent. Churchill, a painter, had lost his right to sell his work as 'American Indian art' after a 1990 federal law required such artists to prove their ethnic authenticity. The law was created to protect Indian art and culture from being co-opted by non-Indians, and Churchill didn't qualify."

Jackson would also write, rather tellingly: "A few months after that interview was published, Churchill was out looking for credentials. In May 1994, Churchill approached the Keetoowah, a poor band of Cherokee, and asked to be an associate member....he got his card and hasn't been much of an associate ever since."

3. Tenure, so desperately vital to Ward Churchill's very survival now, if his supporters are to be believed, meant so little to him before Leah Kelly's death that he was planning to not only move out of the state, but out of the country, and retire.

4. Ward Churchill has written a book about the evils of the cinema in regards to Native peoples, and yet he was planning to make his living from that very cinema via his Native wife.

This is a paragraph, in his own words, that needs very much to be seen by the Regents and President of C.U., and by all who have an interest in this issue. His supporters are screaming themselves hoarse trying to drown the free speech of others in order to defend his right to a tenure he was once willing to jettison in favor of the easy life. An easy life purchased at the expense of a twenty-four-year-old Native woman.

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