In an abrupt change of tone, the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians replaced its harshly critical statement regarding Ward Churchill with one that acknowledges the professor's "alleged ancestry" of being Cherokee.
"Because Mr. Churchill had genealogical information regarding his alleged ancestry, and his willingness to assist the UKB in promoting the tribe and its causes, he was awarded an 'Associate Membership' as an honor," the tribe's website said Thursday. "However, Mr. Churchill may possess eligibility status for Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma,
since he claims 1/16 Cherokee."
(Post / Hyoung Chang)
The new statement, while stopping short of endorsing any of Churchill's heritage, veers from the sharp rebuke posted Tuesday on the tribal website. The website said "Mr. Churchill mocks the basic fundamental principles of Tribal Sovereignty when he consistently refers to enrollment as a 'pedigree' and compares enrollment to 'dogs' and 'Nazi policies."'
The University of Colorado professor has been at the center of controversy since statements he made comparing some victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to a Nazi became public.
In the ensuing furor, CU began an investigation of Churchill that included allegations of plagiarism and of falsely identifying himself to be Indian. That inquiry is ongoing.
The conflicting views on Churchill within the Keetoowah band are a likely indicator of the difficulty a CU committee faces in rendering a decision on his ethnicity and how it relates to his scholarship.
On Thursday, Churchill said that while the new statement supports his contention that the tribe verified his genealogy, it changes nothing. "As it stands now, I am an enrolled associate
member of the UKB," he said. "If they would like to disenroll me, they have the prerogative, but they haven't done so."
Or, he said, "I'll resign. All you ever had to do was ask. If you're so ashamed of me, hell, I don't want anything to do with you. But it was never honorary," Churchill said of his associate membership, "and it did require enrollment."
One point in which Churchill and the tribe appear to agree is that Churchill did not meet the standard to be a full member.
"He was not eligible for tribal membership due to the fact that
he does not possess a 'Certificate of Degree of Indian Blood (CDIB), which is under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Interior/Bureau of Indian Affairs," Thursday's statement said.
Churchill has repeatedly said he has never asked for a CDIB as the idea of being "vetted" by the U.S. government is offensive.
Former tribal chief John Ross, who issued Churchill the associate member degree in 1994, could not be reached for comment. Chief George Wickliffe did not return repeated phone calls Thursday, and a woman who answered the phone at the tribal office
said the statement spoke for him.
Staff writer Amy Herdy can be reached at 303-820-1752 or email@example.com.