- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 18, 2005

DENVER — University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill submitted this week what his attorney described as “conclusive proof” of Mr. Churchill’s status as a member of the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians.

Unfortunately for Mr. Churchill, it wasn’t enough proof for the Keetoowah.

In a statement released Tuesday on the tribe’s Web site, Chief George Wickliffe disavowed the professor’s ethnicity claim.

“The United Keetoowah Band would like to make it clear that Mr. Churchill is not a member of the Keetoowah Band and was only given an honorary ‘associate membership’ in the early 1990s because he could not prove any Cherokee ancestry,” the statement said.

A university committee is investigating whether Mr. Churchill is guilty of plagiarism and lying about his Indian heritage. In his 1978 application to the university, he checked the “American Indian” box, which critics say led to his hiring despite unimpressive academic credentials.

Mr. Churchill later was granted tenure and a department chairmanship, even though he never earned a Ph.D., considered the price of admission for a university professorship.

Late Monday, Mr. Churchill submitted to the committee a 50-page response to questions about his heritage, as well as a 1994 videotape of a Keetoowah Band council meeting at which his membership was debated.

But Marilyn Craig, spokeswoman for the Keetoowah Band in Tahlequah, Okla., said the tape only showed that his membership was discussed, not decided.

“I don’t think it proves anything. It proves that membership was indeed discussed by the council,” she said. “He’s never been a member of our tribe.”

To earn membership, applicants must prove that they are at least one-quarter Keetoowah Cherokee. Mr. Churchill has presented himself at various times as one-sixteenth and three-sixteenth Cherokee, neither of which would be enough to qualify for Keetoowah membership.

“If he’s had the goods to prove himself a Keetoowah Cherokee, he’d be in our files,” Mrs. Craig said. “I don’t know what he’s thinking.”

Questions about Mr. Churchill’s academic integrity arose after he drew national attention for a 2001 essay that compared the September 11 victims to “little Eichmanns,” referring to the infamous Nazi henchman.

In March, university administrators concluded that those statements were protected by the First Amendment, but said there were enough questions about the integrity of his work and claims of Indian heritage to warrant a probe.

The university’s Standing Committee on Research Misconduct, which is reviewing the charges, is authorized to recommend a punishment that could range from censure to dismissal.

The Churchill essay drew a sharp rebuke from the Keetoowah Band, which has sought to distance itself from Mr. Churchill.

“The United Keetoowah Band has no association with Churchill in any capacity whatsoever and considers his remarks offensive,” Chief Wickliffe said.

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