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Confirmed: Ward Churchill is a Fraud, Part 2 By: Laura Frank
Rocky Mountain News | Thursday, June 09, 2005


The following is the third installment of a multi-article investigation launched by the Rocky Mountain News. This installment, written by reporter Kevin Vaughan, focuses on allegations of fraud. Click Here to see an overview of the newspaper's findings. Click Here to see part two (dealing with the charge of plagiarism). Click Here for part three (the charge of mischaracterization). The remaining installment, on the charge of misrepresentation, will be posted in a future issue of FrontPage Magazine. -- The Editors.

The Charge: Plagiarism
by Laura Frank, Rocky Mountain News

On the banks of the Nisqually River, just before it pours into Puget Sound, is a place as important to American Indian sovereignty rights as the bridge at Selma and the high school in Little Rock are to the civil rights movement.

The place is Frank's Landing.

And in the 1960s, American Indians and their supporters repeatedly faced off against police who came to the landing in Washington state to stop them from fishing where they had always fished.

On the surface, the "Fish Wars" were about salmon - which sustained the Indians nutritionally, economically and spiritually. But the real battle was whether the tribes would control their own destiny.

Billy Frank Jr. was arrested more than 50 times during the Fish Wars. But the young Nisqually Indian became best known for his uncanny ability - and unwavering belief - in building consensus and stressing cooperation.

Frank's Landing - named for Billy Frank Jr.'s family - spawned what became one of the most significant rulings in the history of the American Indian struggle for self-determination. Known as the Boldt Decision, it reaffirmed their fishing rights and underscored their sovereignty. And today, Billy Frank Jr. continues his quest for consensus - both to save the salmon and to help secure his people's place in the world.

"I think in the Pacific Northwest and nationally, most people would say Billy is the pre-eminent consensus builder," said Charles Wilkinson, a University of Colorado professor who has written a book about Billy Frank Jr.

Wilkinson is one of the many scholars who have studied Indian treaty fishing rights and the Fish Wars.

Another is Fay Cohen.

Another is Ward Churchill.

The work of Cohen and Churchill is now at the center of a battle all its own. A CU faculty committee, the standing committee on research misconduct, is reviewing two essays to see if allegations that Churchill stole Cohen's work are valid.

Yes, Churchill told the Rocky Mountain News, it's clear that parts of Cohen's article were reused. But he said he is not at fault.

In his most recent interview with the News, he likened his role in the essay to that of a "rewrite man" at a newspaper, taking facts gathered by others and arranging them into an article ready for publication. Churchill also has alternately described his role as assembling, preparing or editing the 1992 version of the essay.

This much is clear: Churchill was intimately familiar with Cohen's work. Just the year before, he had edited her original essay and put it in his 1991 book of essays. After the two disagreed over his editing style, she had notified him by fax that her essay was not to be used again. But it was, with some additions and subtle twisting of her words. Words have familiar ring

The book in which the allegedly purloined essay appears lists Churchill as taking the "lead role in preparing" the article for his research organization, the Institute for Natural Progress. And that version bears some of his literary signature, wording not contained in the original Cohen version.

The Colorado American Indian Movement, for which Churchill serves on the leadership council, is mentioned twice. So are other common themes in Churchill's writing: guns, Vietnam, and a fight for Indian rights stretching into the future. The piece has a new ending: ". . . the native struggle on this continent must and will continue."

In the essay that Churchill says he prepared, Cohen's work and words were subtly changed, sometimes altering the meaning of what she wrote. Not only was her name deleted from the top, but much of her positive take on the past and her optimistic outlook on the future was deleted.

So was Billy Frank Jr.

In Churchill's version, any reference to Frank by name has been removed. The man who championed collaboration over conflict - a philosophy that is the polar opposite of Churchill's - was completely edited out.

"We cannot let the confrontation of the past dictate the shape of the future," Cohen quoted Frank in her original essay. "Government-to-government, we can work together toward a better tomorrow."

Churchill's version repeats Cohen's nearly verbatim in the paragraph before that quote and in the paragraph after it. Only Frank's viewpoint is missing.

Both Cohen's essay and the essay Churchill edited focus on Indian fishing rights in the Northwest and Wisconsin. From the introduction to the conclusion, Churchill's essay mirrors Cohen's. Churchill's cites almost all the same sources of research as Cohen's. In dozens of instances, it lists not only the same documents, but the same pages and has the same commentary.

It is the only essay in the book credited to Churchill's research organization rather than to an individual author. 'She doesn't say I did it'

At the request of the News, two national plagiarism experts reviewed both essays. Legal historian Peter Hoffer helped write the national standards on plagiarism for the American Historical Association, which Congress chartered to protect the American historical record. Hoffer was part of the association's professional division when it used to rule on such issues.

After reviewing the essays, Hoffer said: "I can say that I would have voted that it was plagiarism, and I believe that the rest of the division would have come to the same conclusion."

Churchill agreed that "portions" of Cohen's 1991 essay, which was published in a book of essays he compiled, also appeared in the 1992 version he worked on.

". . . The appearance is - and I'm not going to argue with (Cohen), I think she's probably correct - is that there's portions of her essay in my '91 book that appear in that" 1992 book.

". . . I think she's on pretty firm ground," he said in an interview. "But, and it's fairly important to note, she doesn't say I did it."

Churchill was referring to a report that Cohen's university sent to the CU officials investigating him on charges of research misconduct. That report notes that the essay in question was credited to Churchill's institute and that his name appears only in the back of the book. There, where it describes the authors of all of the book's essays, it does not say Churchill wrote the fishing rights essay, but says rather that he "assumed the lead role in preparing" it.

Churchill said he isn't guilty of plagiarism because he never claimed he wrote the essay.

Stuart Green, director of the Pugh Institute for Justice at Louisiana State University, who also has written about plagiarism, said Churchill's response is no defense.

"When a scholar publishes something - whether he publishes it under his own name or under some institute he runs - that was substantially written by someone else, and he doesn't attribute it to somebody else, surely that's plagiarism," Green says. "I can't see any possible, credible kind of defense here."

Hoffer agreed.

"He edited the first one," Hoffer said. "He knows who wrote the second one. This gives new meaning to the words 'ghost writer.' "

Even if Churchill added the work of others to Cohen's essay, as he suggested, he should have described what he did and credited Cohen for the bulk of the work, Hoffer added.

Churchill placed the blame on Marie Anne Jaimes, who also goes by the name Annette Jaimes. Jaimes, a university professor who was married to him at the time, was editor of The State of Native America: Genocide, Colonization, and Resistance, the 1992 book in which Churchill's version appears. Churchill said that Jaimes added the credit line about his taking the "lead role" in the essay.

"I have a role in that (essay), and it was to take what was handed to me by the authors, specifically by Jaimes, which may or may not mean she was the lead author, I don't know," he said. "She was the link. She was the book editor. And (she) said, 'Can you go over this and make it read well,' which I did."

It is not clear whether Churchill meant Jaimes handed him Cohen's essay or something Jaimes herself claimed to have written. He declined to elaborate.

Jaimes lays responsibility squarely at Churchill's feet. She said she remembers Churchill working on the fishing rights essay and "from what I recall, he had a preliminary or pilot paper he worked off of." She said she couldn't recall if the original paper was Cohen's.

Winona LaDuke is the American Indian rights activist whom Churchill credits with co-founding the Institute for Natural Progress. But LaDuke told the News that the institute "was mostly just an idea. We never really formalized it." She added that Churchill might have taken it more seriously than she.

As for the fishing rights essay that appears under the name of the institute: "I didn't have anything to do with it," LaDuke said. "I don't know anything about that essay." Story of conflict

Cohen, a Harvard-trained American anthropologist at one of Canada's top universities, has devoted her life to studying native people and natural resources. For her piece, it's obvious she spent months poring over documents, finding people to interview, judiciously spending the grant money awarded her to study American Indian fishing rights.

It's also obvious that the American Indians she wrote about spent much time and effort with her. But in the 1992 version of the essay, all that becomes credited to Churchill's Institute for Natural Progress, which is inserted where Cohen's name as author had been.

Today, Cohen won't talk publicly about what happened. She remains focused on her own work. She will answer the questions of the CU investigative committee, but no others.

Through Dalhousie University officials, documents and other sources, the story emerges:

Cohen's first contact with Churchill came in 1990, when a Danish publisher asked Cohen to submit her piece as a chapter in a book of essays that Churchill was editing. Cohen's scholarly sensibilities conflicted with Churchill's ideological passions. He wanted to change parts of her paper; she didn't.

Their contacts became more and more contentious. Finally Cohen decided to take action on two fronts. She decided not to let her essay appear in the book that Jaimes and Churchill were beginning to work on. Cohen sent faxes notifying Churchill and Jaimes, saying that her article was not to be used in The State of Native America. Next she contacted the Danish publishers of Critical Issues in Native North America, Volume II, for which Churchill had been editing her original essay, to complain about his work.

Then came the phone call.

An angry Churchill called Cohen one night - she has said it was late at night; he has said it was mid-afternoon, but he agrees that the conversation was contentious. Cohen has told people that Churchill threatened her, saying "I'll get you." Churchill denies that, although he recalls telling her he would never work with her again.

But Cohen's essay appeared in the 1992 book anyway - as a product of Churchill's handiwork.

When Cohen learned what had happened, she told officials at her university, Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, on the eastern coast of Canada. She wanted the university legal counsel to rule on whether she had been plagiarized. Yes, was the answer. The resulting opinion shows that Cohen apparently intended to send the ruling to the foundation that funded her original research.

But as it turned out, Cohen never sent the resulting legal counsel opinion to anyone - not until this year. Other evidence emerges

Fast-forward to February, when Churchill publicly challenged anyone to find fault with his academic work.

Churchill had found himself in the middle of a national firestorm over his characterization of some World Trade Center victims, suggesting that they deserved their fate. He compared them with -Adolf Eichmann, who had served as Adolf Hitler's chief of operations for the deportation of 3 million Jews to extermination camps.

The university could fire him for falling below professional standards, Churchill said then, but not for saying things people didn't like. And he and his supporters confidently invited anyone - including the university committee investigating him - to review his scholarly work, which spans more than 100 books, essays, chapters and articles, some citing more than 200 endnotes.

Only a charge as serious as something like plagiarism would be a fireable offense, Churchill told his university faculty newspaper.

At that same time, unknown to Churchill, officials at Dalhousie University had the document purporting to tie Churchill to that ultimate scholarly offense - stealing another person's academic work.

The Canadian university sent the report to CU officials, and it became a central part of the ongoing investigation by CU's standing committee on research misconduct.

Two weeks ago, Churchill spent two hours answering questions from the committee. He left them with a 50-page response defending himself.

However, the News discovered several issues that were not included in information sent to the CU committee:

The News found that Churchill published another essay under his institute, then later began claiming credit for writing it as it was republished multiple times. That essay appears to have been copied without permission from a grass-roots Canadian environmental group that was defunct by the time Churchill began to "rewrite" its words.

Churchill, at least three times, has published articles without the permission of their authors. Publishing someone's work without permission violates copyright laws, experts told the News. In at least one case, Churchill added a mistake to the work. The News investigation also uncovered other problems with the fishing rights essays that are not included in either the Dalhousie report or a scholarly article by University of New Mexico professor John LaVelle, who first publicly pointed to the similarities between the essays in 1999. The CU committee is consulting LaVelle's work in its investigation.

The fishing rights essay prepared by Churchill copies a mistake found in Cohen's original version. Cohen misquotes a 1905 U.S. Supreme Court opinion by omitting words. The Churchill essay misquotes the same document in the same way.

"If you reproduce . . . errors or misquotes, that's pretty strong evidence of copying," Green said.

"For me, that's proof they took it from her," Hoffer said. "That is one of the classic proofs that something was taken from someone else."

The original essay is cited three times in the endnotes of Churchill's version. However, Cohen's name is misspelled, and the title of her original essay is wrong twice. Also, on second and third reference to Cohen's work, her name is left off entirely. Hers is the only document where Churchill strays from standard form and doesn't attribute the author's name on second reference.

"That seems deliberate," Hoffer said, noting that Churchill had edited Cohen's original essay just the year before.

The report by Dalhousie's legal counsel said: "The theme of the papers, the organization of the ideas, the issues raised and the wording used together with the cited authorities in the footnotes lead one to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that the INP article appropriated the literary composition, writings, ideas and language of Dr. Cohen without proper attribution and, thus, passed them off as a product of INP when, in fact, they were the product of Dr. Cohen."

The legal counsel noted specific examples where the two essays were almost exactly the same. For instance, Cohen wrote:

"On August 4, 1989, as part of the state's centennial, the state and the treaty tribes signed the Centennial Accord, which outlines the guidelines and principles of government-to-government relations between indigenous nations and the state. A ceremony and celebration was held at the Burke Museum on the University of Washington campus."

Churchill's version reads:

"On August 4, 1989, as part of the state's bicentennial, the State of Washington and the treaty peoples signed the Centennial Accord which outlines key principles of the relationship between the two sides. A ceremony and celebration was held at the Burke Museum on the University of Washington campus."

Churchill's version incorrectly listed the event as the bicentennial and changed "tribes" to "peoples."

Cohen went on to quote Frank, but Churchill's version leaves out this quote. Cohen next included a quote by the then-governor of Washington that was printed on an invitation to the accord-signing ceremony. Churchill's version included this, too.

"It's plainly a clever rip-off," said Hoffer, who chronicled plagiarism throughout history in the book Past Imperfect.

"The very consistency and slyness of the rephrasing indicates the intention to use the research findings of another without appropriate attribution."

Churchill's own views on plagiarism are well-known. He has written about his disdain for it. In his 1994 book Indians Are Us? Culture and Genocide in Native North America, he accused another scholar of plagiarism in a review titled P is for Plagiarism.

"It plainly implies a degree of fundamental dishonesty, and perhaps maliciousness, on the part of the author thus charged," Churchill wrote. The act of plagiarism demonstrated the author's "own lack of integrity and the depth of his disrespect, not only for an unoffending colleague whose work preceded his own, but for his readers and the native people...."

(Billy Frank Jr. is unrelated to Laura Frank, the author of this article.)

Audio: Reporters Kevin Vaughan and Berny Morson asked Ward Churchill about plagiarism allegations currently before the University of Colorado faculty committee investigating him. At issue are an essay by Canadian professor Fay Cohen at Dalhousie University, which appeared in a 1991 book Churchill compiled, and a 1992 essay that mirrors Cohen's, which appeared under the name of Churchill's Institute for Natural Progress. Listen »

The series

Overview of the findings

Part One: Fabrication charge

Part Two: Plagiarism charge

Part Three: Mischaracterization charge

Part Four: Misrepresentation charge




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