Blood-Speak: Ward Churchill and the Racialization of Tribal Identity

Casey R. Kelly, Butler University

Final definitive version available from Taylor & Francis.


After publishing a controversial essay on 9/11, Professor Ward Churchill’s scholarship and personal identity were subjected to a hostile public investigation. Evidence that Churchill had invented his American Indian identity created vehemence among many professors and tribal leaders who dismissed Churchill because he was not a “real Indian.” This essay examines the discourses of racial authenticity employed to distance Churchill from tribal communities and American Indian scholarship. Responses to Churchill’s academic and ethnic self-identification have retrenched a racialized definition of tribal identity defined by a narrow concept of blood. Employing what I term blood-speak, Churchill’s opponents harness a biological concept of race that functions as an instrument of exclusion and a barrier to coalitional politics.