Thursday, March 10, 2005

 

On Ward Churchill's past

An editorial I wrote for HawaiiReporter.com generated an e-mail wherein a lady said she was "dismayed" that I was bringing up the name of Leah Kelly, Ward Churchill's deceased third wife (that editorial is exactly the same as my post The Sanity Ranch--Musings of a Philosopher Queen: Hmmm )

Having read your editorial regarding Ward Churchill and his writings about his wife, Leah Kelly, I had to write to you to express dismay at reading it.

To use a man's dead wife as a means to attack him in the press is a cheap shot, as she isn't here to put across her side of their relationship, one that only she would know about.

There's been lots of opinion, fantasy and spin doctoring written in the last few weeks, which is fine if it is directed solely at the guy in question, but bringing Leah Kelly into the argument is poor journalism.
[Name and e-mail address and location withheld by Diana Trent]

"Poor journalism" to mention the wife he himself wrote an entire book about, In My Own Voice? No, actually, since Ward himself used Leah's life--and death--to make money after she was already gone and could no longer defend herself against anything he might say, he himself has placed her name, her life--and her death--into the public arena, and I am absolutely free to comment upon it.

My quotation of a paragraph written by Churchill in my post and my editorial comes directly from an article he himself wrote, and yes, that paragraph contains disturbing things about the nature of Ward Churchill's character and integrity (or lack therof). Since C.U. is now almost certainly going to make this fraud a multi-millionaire at Colorado taxpayer expense (and Rush Limbaugh, I'll deal with you in another post), and since his supporters have been assaulting us with the tenure card, the paragraph I quoted in both post and editorial wherein Mr. Churchill values tenure so little that he is willing to skip the country and head for Canada and live off his 24-year-old wife, well, that's not poor journalism, that's research. That's finding an appropos quote by the man himself as to how very highly he valued tenure at a time when the only thing that seemed to really matter in Ward Churchill's life was the seeking of any Native credentials he could find. My post explains all of that much more fully, and I'm not really interested in re-posting my entire argument.

In the spirit of my post/editorial, I decided to post here something written in a Boulder paper dealing with Leah Kelly and her family. For background, Leah Kelly, an Ojibway woman and Churchill's third wife--not second as the Boulder article says--, died in 2000, her blood alcohol level extremely high, struck by a car at night while fleeing barefoot across a Boulder street. Ward Churchill's book In My Own Voice purports to deal with the facts of Leah's life and death, but as the article below shows, it doesn't quite reach that esteemed pinnacle of truth. I have edited the article for brevity, but the link to the actual article can be found at the bottom of this blog entry.

The family of Ward Churchill's deceased wife says he misrepresented her in a 2001 biography, prompting Canada's indigenous groups to denounce the book as an "inaccurate portrayal."

Now the sister of Churchill's second wife, Leah Kelly, is disputing some facts in a book based on Kelly's life and death.

The school's examination of Churchill's works probably will include the biography of Kelly, a CU spokeswoman said, although officials are not looking for factual errors. The review is intended to determine if Churchill violated the boundaries of free speech with his controversial opinions, officials said.

Churchill described Kelly — a member of the Ojibway tribe of Canada — as an alcoholic driven to suicidal thoughts because of mental illness and childhood abuse. Further, the piece blames her fate on decades of European descendants devaluing and traumatizing indigenous people in North America through "residential schools" or "Indian schools" designed to assimilate them into the rest of society.

He wrote emotional details of his life with Kelly, including a violent encounter in 1996 and her descent into alcoholism. He referred to her fondly as "my wife, my chosen one, the person who in her very presence afforded me a sense of direction, fulfillment and completeness I'd neither known nor believed possible."

Kelly's sister, Rhonda Kelly, said some of Churchill's characterizations of her family and tribe are inaccurate "because it made for better reading." For example, she disputes that her sister had mental health problems.

Rhonda Kelly said Churchill didn't contact her family for research. "He didn't know enough about our history, not enough to be able to write about our family," she said Monday. "It's ironic that he protests about the way we're portrayed, yet he does it himself. He's not native."

First, I would point out to any critics who may find themselves "dismayed" that I would choose to defend Leah Kelly posthumously and use her name to make a point about her husband, that C.U. have themselves brought the book into their review. I have a few other cogent things to say on this topic, but that can wait for a later post ;)

I myself fully plan to contact Rhonda Kelly and try to get her side of the story. Ward Churchill's entire academic career has been littered with inaccuracies, plagiarism, copyright infringement, and just plain lies, and this definitely sounds to me as if he has also, through his own writings available to anyone with access to a modem or a library or a bookstore, posthumously slandered his own third wife.

Link for article from the Boulder Daily Camera: The Daily Camera: News You may be asked to register before gaining access to the article, but registration is free and takes just a minute.

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