Monday, September 25, 2006

Ward Churchill Mischaracterized the 1887 Dawes Act

"I really have to cite this to people who are capable of tying their shoes without instructions?"---Ward Churchill
In an article called "The Charge of Mischaracterization," Berny Morson of The Rocky Mountain News explains how Ward Churchill mischaracterized the 1887 Dawes Act. The article was later reprinted in Front Page Magazine (June 9, 2005).

Morson writes:

"At the center of Ward Churchill's scholarship is his steady contention that the U.S. government has sought to deal with American Indians by wiping them out.

Sometimes the method was outright war. Other times, according to Churchill's works, it was as surreptitious as the intentional spreading of deadly disease.

But in Churchill's telling of a troubled history, there are also sinister government attempts to legislate tribes out of existence by establishing a "blood quantum" standard to determine who is Indian.

The University of Colorado ethnic studies professor has long attributed this blood-quantum rule to the notorious 1887 Dawes Act, which broke up many Indian reservations into individual holdings.

But the plain language of the statute, which resulted in one of the nation's most duplicitous land grabs, contains no mention of a blood-quantum standard.

...Not only is there no mention of a blood-quantum provision in the wording of the statute, but it also does not jibe with any subsequent court ruling or federal regulation, said law professor Carole Goldberg, who heads UCLA's Joint Degree Program in Law and American Indian Studies.

...In 1999, LaVelle [John LaVelle, a University of New Mexico law professor] wrote a 50-page essay on the subject - including the verbatim text of the Dawes Act - for the Indian studies journal Wicazo Sa Review. [See "The General Allotment Act "Eligibility" Hoax: Distortions of Law, Policy, and History in Derogation of Indian Tribes]

Going through Churchill's works essay by essay, LaVelle found Churchill never cited evidence for his claim that Dawes held a blood-quantum standard.

'This lack of a supporting citation is explained by the fact that . . . the (Dawes Act) never contained any such federally imposed eligibility 'code' at all,' LaVelle wrote in the 1999 essay." [See the rest.]


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