Churchill Files Academic Fraud Complaint

June 2005

CU Ethnic Studies Professor Ward Churchill has filed an academic fraud complaint against Lamar University assistant sociology professor Thomas Brown, alleging that Brown committed research misconduct.

The complaint alleges misconduct in the research Thomas conducted to dispute Churchill's work....Churchill also called Lamar University's provost, the arts and sciences school dean and the chairman of the sociology department, saying he would file a complaint against Brown, said university spokesman Brian Sattler. Lamar is in Beaumont, Texas. "He was making charges against him, taking issue with the accusations that (Brown) made," Sattler said.

Brown says the Complaint is an attempt to intimidate him from disclosing his findings about Churchill's earlier writing that the U.S. Army committed genocide in 1837 by passing out infected blankets to the Indians.

"It looks as if he's trying to intimidate me into silence about my research on the 1837 smallpox epidemic, but how he expects such a spurious complaint to be effective for him is beyond my comprehension," Brown wrote in an e-mail exchange with The Denver Post on Wednesday. "I suspect he's acting from a revenge instinct." Brown's initial findings about Churchill's statement are here. This is one of the Churchill paragraphs with which Brown takes issue:

At Fort Clark on the upper Missouri River…the U.S. Army distributed smallpox-laden blankets as gifts among the Mandan. The blankets had been gathered from a military infirmary in St. Louis where troops infected with the disease were quarantined. Although the medical practice of the day required the precise opposite procedure, army doctors ordered the Mandans to disperse once they exhibited symptoms of infection. The result was a pandemic among the Plains Indian nations which claimed at least 125,000 lives, and may have reached a toll several times that number.

Brown's conclusion was:

Situating Churchill's rendition of the epidemic in a broader historiographical analysis, one must reluctantly conclude that Churchill fabricated the most crucial details of his genocide story. Churchill radically misrepresented the sources he cites in support of his genocide charges, sources which say essentially the opposite of what Churchill attributes to them. It is a distressing conclusion. One wants to think the best of fellow scholars. The scholarly enterprise depends on mutual trust. When one scholar violates that trust, it damages the legitimacy of the entire academy. Churchill has fabricated a genocide that never happened. It is difficult to conceive of a social scientist committing a more egregious violation.

But, there are those who support Churchill's claim on the smallpox incident. More here. They say that there are historical precedents for Churchill's claim.