In a brace of scathing articles for the Society for Academic Freedom and Scholarship (SAFS), former Native Studies professor at Brandon University in Manitoba, Jeff Muehlbauer, recounts the doctrinal travesty and ideological perversity that has overtaken the modern academy.
Muehlbauer is a Canadian linguist fluent in German, Icelandic, Latin and Greek, with a specialty in the Cree language and its various dialects. He worked with native populations in the province, recording “aboriginal memory” in order to preserve native recollection of a past fast disappearing with the older generation. He soon ran afoul of the Native Studies establishment at his university, which had its own politicized agenda, namely, the preservation not of aboriginal memory but of a particular ideological purpose and perspective regarding indigenous experience.
A crucial issue currently galvanizing the Canadian university system has to do with the suffering of native peoples in the now-abolished religiously oriented Residential Schools, which sought both to convert aboriginal students to Christianity and to integrate them into the wider culture. The discipline was often harsh, sometimes abominable, and pedagogical methods generally punitive. The shame and resentment which followed in their wake became a national cause célèbre.
A Truth and Reconciliation Commission was set up from 2008 to 2015, leading to a so-called national “conversation” and ongoing political controversy. Documentary records were erratic, staff resignations were disruptive and evidence was largely anecdotal, provided without rigorous cross-examination. The hearings resulted, in the words of the report, “in one of the largest settlement packages in the history of the country.” In its race to indigenize, the academy acknowledged aboriginal claims to the land on which its physical plant was built and developed mandatory Native Studies curricula, courses on “indigenous science” and “multiple ways of knowing,” and cultural sensitivity programs, establishing what Muelhbauer calls a “new ideological preserve” in which only one side of the story could be told—the politically correct side of relentless religious persecution and cultural genocide.
But there was another side, namely, the experience of many indigenous individuals who claim to have benefitted from their education in the Schools, for which they are grateful, and whose memories were being systematically purged. “[M]emory has been cherry-picked,” Muelhbauer writes, in the service of political dockets and programs the majority of which “have shed their scholarly origins [and] are being filled with faculty who have no knowledge of the differences among aboriginal nations or of the languages they speak.”
Muehlbauer knows and speaks Cree and has interviewed his subjects in their native tongue, but his findings have been expunged and his interview subjects purged by a “radicalized cloister” in which “identity is always conditioned by ideology.” The terrain of memory had been cordoned off and re-thematized. The countervailing experience of the people he consulted—who reported that the Residential Schools had a positive effect on their lives—was considered inadmissible. It violated the narrative and had to be demonized. The monostory of indigenous suffering and “settler” guilt had to be fixed in textual stone, ruling out the atayohkewina, or sacred stories, told by people whose names the arbiters of collective dogma “can neither pronounce nor translate.” They are faux scholars “who don’t let data get in the way of a good model,” telling students that “the Cree texts were fabricated” and that Muehlbauer had no right to teach them. The Cree, of course, had no written language; a syllabics system was devised by Reverend James Evans in 1840, which the Cree learned in the mission schools. The “texts” in question were Muehlbauer’s recorded interviews.
A chief resource of these Native Studies departments is the weaponization of their aboriginal students, who emerge unfit for productive employment and good citizenship but are adept at grievance mongering, class disruption and social disturbance. As Muehlbauer says, “With any luck, they will graduate with a degree in Native Studies, not being able to find their own tribe on a map, not knowing who Poundmaker and Big Bear were, not being able to speak a word of their heritage language. They won’t know what their own surname means, but they’ll agree with every expansionist aim of their Native Studies faculty. They’ve undergone a conversion”—not, be it said, to Christianity, but to the religion of identity politics. They are afraid “of not being mitoni-nehiyawak, “real Indians,” that is, fake Indians. It should be noted that Muehlbauer does not blame these young people. “Most of them cannot manage the brutal Bolshevism of their faculty for too long.” They have been groomed as foot soldiers for the cause of “social justice,” territorial claims and native reparations.
What is needed, obviously, is not a prefabricated ideological myth that censors different or opposing views but a comprehensive study that tells all sides of the story in the interest of scholarly honesty and historical truth. Muehlbauer by no means approved of the Residential Schools’ abuses, as he was charged by his supervisors, colleagues and students, but argued from native testimony that such was not universally the case. Regrettably, “whole swathes of the past are being clear-cut [by] Native Studies literati who control transmission.”
The corruption, as Muehlbauer indicates, is not unique to Native Studies. “Faculty, being the typical bloodless connivers that they often are…are generally feudalistic, ambitious, expansionist obsessives who are keyed to look for weaknesses and opportunities” to promote their favored inventories of concern: minority victimhood of all stripes and shades, the principle of merit as a Western deceptive strategy to disempower the marginalized, the elimination of all that falls outside the narrow parameters of multicultural orthodoxy, the abolition of history, the promotion of the topical at the expense of the perennial, and the canard of white guilt for all the world’s evils.
Those who refuse to allow ideology to distort their scholarship and who demonstrate moral integrity, honest research and impartial, non-politicized teaching are consequently in peril of their careers in the Cacklogalinnian island of giant chickens prone to “invenomed and griping fits,” which is the modern university. The university, Muehlbauer believes, cannot be restored to its former glory. “It exists within a structured logic…that would rather burn to the ground than change.”
It would seem that he is right. The charade of Native Studies is a symptom of what is happening all across the university landscape today in which almost every faculty and department has succumbed to the disease of academic decadence. As for Muehlbauer, he was informed by his Dean that heterodox faculty had to be attacked “until they learn their lesson.” Most did. Muehlbauer didn’t and eventually resigned under pressure. Had he stayed on, he may even have been sacked, like Rick Mehta at Acadia University who also raised the Residential question and wished to open it to objective discussion. He would surely have come under ever more vicious and unremitting assault, as Ricardo Duchesne is currently experiencing at the University of New Brunswick for his principled stand against multiculturalism.
“I am in the boneyard now,” Muehlbauer writes. This was to be expected. The best people are being hounded out of the university. The dregs—the cowardly, the careerists, the vigilantes and the Commissars—remain.