Words Matter- “Genocide” and United States Indian Policies

Despite the fraudulent efforts of academic hucksters likethe resoundingly discredited Ward Churchill  – there is still no evidence that the US government ever tried to infect American Indians with smallpox. The myth of the smallpox blankets stems from a British, not American plan- an unsuccessful plan all-the-same.  Churchill manipulates this myth into his misguided and perverse theory that the United States committed genocide against American Indians.  The core of his argument is the 1837 outbreak among the Mandan tribe near Fort Clark- according to Churchill, the US Army shipped quarantined blankets from St. Louis to Fort Clark and then distributed them to the Mandan.


Human-to-human outbreak only.


Now about that pesky historical evidence-

  • Fort Clark was not a US military post- it was owned and operated by a private fur trading company.
  • There were no US military personnel within 800 miles of Fort Clark in 1837
  • There is no evidence of US Army blankets infected with smallpox at St. Louis(or any post.)
  • None of the witnesses- including an Indian Affairs agent – distributed blankets to the tribe.
  • All of the witnesses record the same event- a Mandan sneaking onto a steamer with sick passengers and stealing a blanket.  Churchill never acknowledges this event despite its prominence in the historical record.
  • Nearly all scholars agree- the 1837 outbreak was likely caused by human-human contact and not airborne transmissions from blankets(there is evidence of Mandans socializing with some of the infected passengers.)


Too hip to do research

Hucksters have a story to sell and books to peddleeven if that means falsifying sources, fabricating evidence, and creating historical figures – all to push a political agenda.  There are still academics who defend him and see him as a hero of academic freedom. Protecting free speech and academic freedom is a noble(and necessary) endeavor, but Ward Churchill is a spurious choice for such an important cause.

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