Saturday, January 12, 2008

Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics by Ward Churchill

"Jim Vander Wall and I have used the figure of 69 as the minimum number of AIM members and supporters murdered on the Pine Ridge Reservation from mid-1973 to mid-1976."--Ward Churchill in From a Native Son. p. 256. 1996.

"[I]n the post-Wounded Knee context of South Dakota's Pine Ridge Lakota Reservation, independent researcher Candy Hamilton established that at least 342 AIM members and supporters were killed by roving death squads aligned with and supported by the FBI. (The death squads called themselves GOONs, "Guardians of the Oglala Nation.") This was between 1973 and 1976 alone.---Ward Churchill, 1985 and 1996.
[See Churchill's CV.]
In May 2000, the Minneapolis FBI published a document called "Accounting for Native American Deaths." I wrote about this document here.
The FBI document stated that unsubstantiated allegations about the FBI had eroded the trust of Indian people:

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and its Agents in South Dakota can only operate effectively where we have the trust and help of the American people. For South Dakota, much of our work revolves around crimes occurring in Indian Country. The trust and help of reservation residents are vital to the accomplishment of our sworn duty.

For many years, rumors of unresolved murders of Native Americans have come to our attention. At times, these allegations represented that there were hundreds of murdered Native Americans that had not been investigated by the FBI. [full text]

After the FBI published this document in May 2000, Ward Churchill [who was finally fired from his professorship at the University of Colorado in Boulder on July 24, 2007, for research misconduct] wrote a rebuttal to the FBI document called "Analysis and Refutation of the FBI's 'Accounting' for AIM Fatalities on Pine Ridge, 1973-1976."

Churchill's so-called "refutation" claimed:

[T]his [is] by no means "the first time" the FBI has had an opportunity to address the list of names and allegations in question. Along with Jim Vander Wall, I initially assembled it in 1987 from fragmentary records provided by Bruce Ellison, Ken Tilson and Candy Hamilton, all former members of the Woun[d]ed Knee Legal Defense / Offense Committee (WKLDOC). A portion of it was then published in my and Vander Wall's 1988 Agents of Repression (pp. 184-88), the first six copies of which book were acquired by the FBI library in Washington, DC. Refined and expanded in 1989, the list was then published again in my and Vander Wall's book The COINTELPRO Papers (pp. 393-4), copies of which were also acquired by the FBI library. The same list was also published as an attachment to an essay included in my 1994 Indians Are Us? (pp. 197-205), and still again in my 1996 From A Native Son (pp. 257-60). It has, moreover, been in continuous distribution by the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee (LPDC) for the past six years. [Until recently, the "Leonard Peltier Defense Committee Statement in Reply to FBI's Accounting of Unsolved Deaths on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation (1973-1976)" was posted here, but strangely there is only a coupon for Petsmart on that site. The Google cache is still available. The red highlighting is mine; see full text]

Ward Churchill is not being very sincere when he claims that he “initially assembled [a list of Indians allegedly murdered by FBI-backed GOONS] in 1987 from fragmentary records," because in 1985, Ward Churchill published an article in the Covert Action Information Bulletin that claimed that the FBI backed death squads that killed 342 Indians. [See my original treatment of this issue here.] The article was titled "The Covert War Against Native Americans." This article is listed in Churchill's CV under a slightly different title:

Special focus section on repression of the American Indian Movement, including two feature pieces (“The Covert War Against American Indians”[pp. 16-21] and “The Strange Case of ’Wild Bill’ Jank-low” [pp. 22-4]) and three sidebars (“Profile of an Informer” [pp. 18-21], “Dennis Banks” [p. 24] and “The FBI at Pine Ridge: 1973-1976” [pp. 26-7, 29]), CovertAction Information Bulletin, No. 24 (July 1985) pp. 16-29. (The late William Kunstler also contributed an article titled “The Ordeal of Leonard Peltier” to the section [pp. 25-9]). [Cited from Ward Churchill's CV.]

Churchill's 1985 article in the C.A.I.B., which claimed that FBI-backed death squads killed 342 Indians, was even republished in January 1996 as "The Covert War Against Native Americans" by a Canadian publication called Arm the Spirit. It is still on the Internet here and listed in Churchill's CV:

“The Covert War Against Native Americans,” Arm the Spirit, Jan. 1996.

My point is this: in 1985 Churchill claimed that FBI-backed death-squads killed 342 Indians. In his 1988, 1989, 1994, and 1996 books that Churchill cites as evidence in his refutation to the FBI, Churchill provided much the smaller number of a minimum of 69 murders, a figure in line with his "Analysis and Refutation of the FBI's 'Accounting' for AIM Fatalities on Pine Ridge, 1973-1976."

For example, in his 1988 book Agents of Repression, Churchill's list doesn't have 342 names, and on page 175 Churchill writes:

The GOONs' anti-AIM activities on Pine Ridge underwent a continuous escalation in scope and virulence through the period of greatest FBI activity on Pine Ridge, roughly mid-1973 to late-1976. During this approximate three-year span, at least sixty-nine AIM members and supporters were to die violently on and around Pine Ridge, while more than 300 were physically assaulted and, in many cases, shot. Virtually all of these murders and assaults are attributed to the GOONs and their counterparts in the BIA police.

In footnote 156, which follows this passage, Churchill claimed:

These data are the compilation of former WKLDOC researcher Candy Hamilton, who performed site investigations at the time of the actual events; Hamilton suggests that her information is "undoubtedly incomplete." FBI and BIA documents bear out much of the substance of her records. [Agents of Repression p. 426]

In 1996, Churchill published From a Native Son and claimed on page 256 that a minimum of 69 Indians were murdered by FBI-backed GOONS. On page 256 Churchill cited the books he noted in his refutation to the FBI:

In our books Agents of Repression (South End Press, 1988) and The COINTELPRO Papers (South End Press 1990) Jim Vander Wall and I have used the figure of 69 as the minimum number of AIM members and supporters murdered on Pine Ridge Reservation from mid-1973 to mid-1976.

Yet in the very same year that he published From a Native Son (1996), Churchill again let Arm the Spirit republish the fantastic figure of 342 Indians killed by FBI-backed death squads, and listed this article in his CV.

I think that even Churchill's more modest statistics are fabricated and that the Minneapolis FBI document is an an honest accounting.

In a later post, I will tell what Joseph Trimbach [search my posts that mention Trimbach], the retired FBI agent who authored The American Indian Mafia, says about Churchill's apocryphal account of the GOONs. The book even has its own site: http://www.americanindianmafia.com/

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