Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

July 4, 2015

'Dogs and Media Hounds' Russell Means Uncensored a Decade Later

'Dogs and Media Hounds,' Russell Means Uncensored a Decade Later

Photo Brenda Norrell
Russell Means and Ward Churchill
By Brenda Norrell

While going through my files, and remembering interviews with Russell Means, I found these two articles censored by Indian Country Today a decade ago, while I was a staff reporter there. 
I'm publishing these now because Russell wanted these articles published, and because Russell never did shy away from controversy. Russell was not afraid of criticism and did not care if others disagreed with him. Russell was fearless in the face of criticism. These words, too, are part of history.
Here are the words of Russell Means, Ward Churchill and others, as spoken to me a decade ago in 2005.
In the first article, "Russell Means: Dogs and Media Hounds," Russell Means defends Ward Churchill.
“We are the only ethnic group in the world that has to prove our degree of blood, like the dogs and the horses. It is because we live on America's concentration camps; the 'little Iraqis' called reservations, you know?” Means said as he began his address, alongside Churchill at the University of Colorado.
The second article is: "Silencing Ward Churchill, primer on the advance of the far right," subtitled, "Ward Churchill: The lesson of Nuremberg,' is America listening?
Faith Attaguile, reviewer of  the book "On the Justice of Roosting Chickens," said, "Have our ideas of democratic discussion been atrophied and corrupted to such an extent that such people actually feel empowered to silence any voice they don't like, wrapping themselves in the dangerous trappings of patriotic fervor all the while?"

Russell Means: Dogs and Media Hounds
By Brenda Norrell
copyright Brenda Norrell
February 2005

BOULDER, Colo. – Defying the media lynching of Ward Churchill, Russell Means aligned himself with Ward Churchill and said Churchill’s legacy remains in his writings, words that have helped rip open the United States’ regime of oppression in the dark days of the Clear Channel.
“We are the only ethnic group in the world that has to prove our degree of blood, like the dogs and the horses. It is because we live on America's concentration camps; the 'little Iraqis' called reservations, you know?” Means said as he began his address, alongside Churchill at the University of Colorado.
Although the college initially canceled the gathering, Churchill and Means went to court to ensure the student gathering proceeded. Churchill delivered an extensive explanation of his comments regarding 9/11, published three years ago in “Some People Push Back; on the Justice of Roosting Chickens.” Churchill said his comments were distorted in the media and he owes no one an apology.
Means and Churchill spoke to a standing room only crowd on Feb. 8, addressing the issues of corporate exploitation of indigenous people, blood quantum and the U.S. Interior Trust Fund scandal.
Means told students, “We also don't have control of our natural resources, and the corporate might has been ripping us off from day one. That's part of the books, and part of the education that Ward has given not only to the university and its generations of students, but throughout the country and indeed, throughout the world.
“I want you to know that we are forbidden from choosing who are our Indian people, by the United States government.”
Means said his own twin brothers were not enrolled in the Oglala Sioux Tribe, his father’s tribe, until his brothers were 32-years-old. Then, he said it came about only after American Indian Movement efforts in the late ‘70s and the actions of Churchill, who he referred to as a leader in the movement.
“I wonder how many of Clear Channel columnists and naysayers are gonna condemn my brothers for not being Indian. Ward is my brother. Ward has followed the ways of indigenous people worldwide. If you do not believe so, then go to Geneva Switzerland, to the United Nations office of the working group of indigenous peoples, and you will find out that we as one people in the world, we say, if you know your ancestry, then you are who you say you are.”
While Churchill’s comments on 9/11, in reference to Adolf Eichmann were widely misrepresented by the Associated Press and other media, Means did not hesitate to speak of Hitler and Indian reservations.
Means told students, “In the writings of Adolf Hitler, he began his idea of separation by race, in such a preference, by following and reading about the Indian policy of the United States of America, and he wrote in Mein Kampf, or in other writings, that it was a good idea to put people in reservations; hence his labor camps, hence which became concentration camps. And he classified people they did not want, by race.”
Means said South Africa passed the Bantu Development Act in 1964, thirty years after the United States government passed the Indian Reorganization Act.
“The act that institutionalized apartheid, by race and degree of blood, in South Africa was literally copied from the Indian Reorganization Act of the United States.
“Both of those governments no longer exist, and you have these corporate minions from Clear Channel and the corporate media telling us who is our Indian leaders! Telling me that my brother is not an Indian! Because he hasn't been adequately registered.”
Means said he was happy to hear from the moderator that the media could not ask questions at the gathering. Making a point on blood quantum, Means named one reporter and said if the reporter were to ask a question, Means would demand that the reporter show proof of pure Jewish blood.
“Now, understand our struggle. Ward Churchill has understood it and you only have to read his dozens of essays and almost two-dozen books that he's written. I know the Regents aren't going to get through them all,” Means said, which attracted applause.
“Those cowards. Those cowards that cannot stand up for women, and cannot stand up for the rights of teachers!” Means said, followed by loud applause.
“Ward has received many, many honors from the non-Indian world; but the biggest honor and the only honor we can give him, and we have, for dozens of years, is to make him what we call in my language, a leader, a statesman. And he's going around the country with that label, and it is a true label. And I don't care what Clear Channel says about or the Indianate says about his sixteenth, or three-sixteenths, he's what counts.
“And his writings are proof. I cannot convey to you the amount of pride we have in Ward Churchill, and the amount of pride he gives us, the sovereignty he gives us.”
Meanwhile, the Keetoowah Band of Cherokee in Tahlequah, Okla., said Churchill is not an enrolled member. The American Indian Movement Governing Council in Minneapolis also disavowed Churchill as an AIM leader, calling him an “academic literary and Indian fraud.”
However, Means delivered a different perspective of Churchill.
“The American Indian Movement, when we had a together leadership, we appointed him as an ambassador, and he traveled internationally representing us and all Indian people because we are a free people.
So I want, from this day forward, every media person nationally, internationally and locally to know that we have ascertained that Ward Churchill is a full-blooded Indian leader.”
Earlier, Churchill and Means were among the American Indian activists, leaders and attorneys who were subjects of the covert Denver police spy files. Exposure of the police spy files resulted in an ACLU that led to changes within the Denver Police Intelligence Department. Information in the police spy files also revealed a plot to murder Churchill, which he was never informed of.
Churchill’s research and writing often focus on COINTELPRO and covert operations of police and federal agents to infiltrate and disrupt social and political action groups. The media frenzy over Churchill’s “Roosting Chickens,” published three years earlier, came just days after he and others won a court victory in Denver on arrest charges for blocking the Columbus Day Parade.

Silencing Ward Churchill, primer on the advance of the far right
Ward Churchill: 'The lesson of Nuremberg,' is America listening?

By Brenda Norrell
copyright Brenda Norrell
Feb. 4, 2005

BOULDER, Colo. - In three days, using an essay written three years ago,
the right wing and mainstream media distorted comments made by
University of Colorado Boulder professor Ward Churchill, resulting in
death threats and a call for his resignation by the governor of
With the summarized and distorted text distributed by The Associated
Press and appearing across the nation and worldwide, Churchill resigned
from his position as chair of the ethnic studies department. Within 24
hours, a speaking engagement at Hamilton College in New York was
cancelled amid death threats directed at Churchill and the college.
It is a primer in the current crisis in America, the rising power of
the far right and the ability of the conservative and mainstream media
to fabricate news for the purpose of political agendas and vendettas.
Not surprising, the firestorm began within days of the acquittal of
Churchill and seven others on trial for blocking the Italian-American
Columbus Day Parade in Denver. The attack began in the national media
the same day that the article, "Columbus Day protesters victorious in
court," appeared on the website of Indian Country Today.
Both the Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News had already published
editorial comments blasting both the protesters and the Denver City
prosecutor's decision to drop all charges against the nearly 240
protesters arrested for blocking the October 9th parade. The protesters
argued that the celebration of Columbus is hate speech and the bedrock
of genocide for American Indians.
As Churchill prepared to speak at Hamilton College on the panel,
"Limits to Dissent," angry readers responded to fabricated news reports
of Churchill's comments about the attacks of September 11, 2001. Some
accused him of sedition and told him to go to Iraq and join Osama bin
Laden. In reader comments posted on the Rocky Mountain News website,
Churchill was called the enemy of the nation and some pressed for his
arrest and imprisonment at Guantanamo Bay.
However, to others, Churchill became a hero. "Rock on Ward -- We're
listening," one person commented.
How many people had actually read Churchill's book "Some People Push
Back: On the Justice of Roosting Chickens?" Few, no doubt. The
responses were based on media reports from AP, Fox News and Denver
Churchill said the gross distortions could only be viewed as an attempt
to distract the public from the real issues at hand and stifle free
speech and academic debate.
Diminishing Churchill in the media only attracted attention to the
unanswered questions of America's role in world tyranny. He dared to
put a number on the dead children in Iraq, say those who came to his
Silencing Churchill created a void, a vacuum for the unanswered. For
posturing politicians, their positions became teetering pedestals.
Even the film "Fahrenheit 911" did not attract such a violent response
from the far right. But, then again, Michael Moore was not a longtime
activist with the American Indian Movement, coming fresh from a court
victory over opposition to the celebration of Columbus.
"On the Justice of Roosting Chickens," details the chronology of U.S.
military interventions since 1776, U.S. violations of international law
and abuses of human rights.
Under attack, Churchill said, "I am not a 'defender' of the September
11 attacks, but simply pointing out that if U.S. foreign policy results
in massive death and destruction abroad, we cannot feign innocence when
some of that destruction is returned. I have never said that people
‘should' engage in armed attacks on the United States, but that such
attacks are a natural and unavoidable consequence of unlawful U.S.
Churchill said he does not advocate violence. He mourned the victims
of September 11, mourned the 500,000 Iraqi children who died as a
result of economic sanctions and mourned the millions who have died in
Indochina, Central America and from genocide and slave trade.
"Finally, I have never characterized all the September 11 victims as
'Nazis.' What I said was that the 'technocrats of empire' working in
the World Trade Center were the equivalent of 'little Eichmanns.' Adolf
Eichmann was not charged with direct killing, but with ensuring the
smooth running of the infrastructure that enabled the Nazi genocide.'"
Churchill pointed out that the Pentagon was a target and there was a
CIA office in the World Trade Center.
"It should be emphasized that I applied the 'little Eichmanns'
characterization only to those described as 'technicians.' Thus, it was
obviously not directed to the children, janitors, food service workers,
firemen and random passers-by killed in the 9-1-1 attacks."
Churchill, known for his research on COINTELPRO and agents of
oppression against the American Indian Movement, said the bottom line
of his argument is that the best way to prevent 9-1-1-style attacks on
the U.S. is for American citizens to compel their government to comply
with the rule of law.
"The lesson of Nuremberg is that this is not only our right, but our
"On the Justice of Roosting Chickens," won Honorary Mention for the
Gustavus Myer Human Rights Award for best writing on human rights.
The points of Churchill's three-year-old essay came home to roost when
he resigned as chair of the ethnic studies department.
Condemning Churchill's comments during the media frenzy, Colorado Gov.
Bill Owens called for Churchill to resign as professor. Calling
Churchill's comments indecent, insensitive, inappropriate, outrageous
and at odds with facts of history, Owens said evil cowards murdered
innocent victims on Sept. 11, 2001.
"No one wants to infringe on Mr. Churchill's right to express himself.
But we are not compelled to accept his pro-terrorist views at state
taxpayer subsidy nor under the banner of the University of Colorado,"
Gov. Owens said, adding that Churchill besmirched the university's
standard of excellence.
"This is a firestorm out here," said activist Renee Still Day in
Pueblo, Colo, responding to the governor's call for Churchill's
resignation on Feb. 1.
"Freedom of speech is dead if it's not in support of this dictator
Faith Attaguile, reviewer of  book "On the Justice of Roosting
Chickens,"  at the time of publication, said it is obvious that most
people now responding have not read the book.
"We have ignorant accusations and appalling attempts to silence an
honest voice, with threats to his job and person," Attaguile said.
"Have our ideas of democratic discussion been atrophied and corrupted
to such an extent that such people actually feel empowered to silence
any voice they don't like, wrapping themselves in the dangerous
trappings of patriotic fervor all the while?
"What we have here an a good example of organically grown Homeland
Security State troops."
A group of professors on the Boulder campus also came to Churchill's
support. The Boulder Faculty Assembly said his comments were
"controversial, offensive and odious," but they defended Churchill's
right to express his opinion and the need for open debate on campus.
"The lifeblood of any strong university is its diversity of ideas which
allows for the environment necessary to educate and train young
learners and advance the boundaries of knowledge," said the statement,
released by university spokesman Peter Caughey.
Mike Graham, founder of United Native America, said he attempted to
call into a Denver radio station talk show to voice his concerns, but
the station did not want to hear what he had to say about the federal
government's holocaust against Indians. This holocaust, he said, has
gone without an apology.
Graham pointed out that Hitler studied American history and learned
about eliminating races of people. On the Cherokee Trail Of Tears, over
5,000 people were killed and thousands more died from the effects.
"Ward Churchill was telling people that America's policies in other
countries, and corporate America, is why we are being attacked -- that
is why they hit the World Trade Center," Graham said.
Graham said September 11, 2001, was not the worst mass killing of
people in this country.
"That happen to American Indians, because of the federal government's
policies toward the Indian race of people."


Unknown said...

It bears mentioning that saints have been martyred for speaking the truth at times when the truth was what was needed. The truths that these men spoke are true, yet, today.

Unknown said...

Thanks for sharing Brenda, that's powerful stuff.