Native Americans Offended by Bin Laden Code Name 'Geronimo'
Fort Sill Apache Tribal Chairman Jeff Houser sent a letter to the President Obama Tuesday, saying equating the legendary Apache warrior to a "mass murderer and cowardly terrorist" was painful and offensive to all Native Americans.
From the Ft. Sill Apache Tribe:
I am writing on behalf of and in my capacity as the Chairman of the Fort Sill Apache Tribe. On Sunday, our Tribe like most of the country was ecstatic about your announcement that Osama bin Laden had been killed in a military operation in Pakistan. The performance of our military and intelligence agencies in locating and taking action against Osama bin Laden made us all of proud to be Americans.
However, late yesterday as details of the operation came to light, our Tribe and many other Native Americans learned of a disturbing fact that tempered our positive feelings about this great accomplishment. Through various media reports our Tribe found out that the code name used for Osama bin Laden on this operation was Geronimo. As you may or may not know, Geronimo was a member of our Tribe. He is buried in the Fort Sill Apache Prisoner of War Cemetery on the Fort Sill Army Base in Lawton, Oklahoma where he died after almost 23 years of captivity.
We are quite certain that the use of the name Geronimo as a code for Osama bin Laden was based on misunderstood and misconceived historical perspectives of Geronimo and his armed struggle against the United States and Mexican governments. However to equate Geronimo or any other Native American figure with Osama bin Laden, a mass murderer and cowardly terrorist, is painful and offensive to our Tribe and to all native Americans.
Geronimo was a renowned Chiricahua Apache leader who personally fought to defend his people, territory and way of life. Unlike the coward Osama bin Laden, Geronimo faced his enemy in numerous battles and engagements. He is perhaps one of the greatest symbols of Native American resistance in the history of the United States.
What this action has done is forever link the name and memory of Geronimo to one of the most despicable enemies this Country has ever had. This fact is even more appalling when examined in light of the United States House of Representatives February 2009 Resolution that honored Geronimo for "his extraordinary bravery, and his commitment to the defense of his homeland, his people, and Apache ways of life." Now a little over two years later your Administration has further immortalized his existence by linking him to the most hated person in recent American history.
Our Tribe and most Native Americans would hope that you would issue a formal apology to the Geronimo family members, the Fort Sill Apache Tribe and to all Native Americans for this action. Right now Native American children all over this Country are facing the reality of having one of their most revered figures being connected to a terrorist and murderer of thousands of innocent Americans. Think about how they feel at this point.
We all remember that you were elected on a message of compassion and change. This action by your Administration showed neither compassion toward Native Americans nor a change in the perception of us or an understanding of our struggle. Please do not allow this injustice against one of our greatest figures to stand. Only you Mr. President can take steps to right this wrong.
Native Sun News:
Veterans upset by 'Geronimo' codename
The following story was written and reported by Ernestine Chasing Hawk.
Wednesday, May 4, 2011
RAPID CITY, SOUTH DAKOTA — "We have a visual on Geronimo," CIA director Leon Panetta told President Barack Obama and his team who sat listening in the Situation Room at the White House shortly before the life of the world's most wanted terrorist was extinguished.
However American Indian Veterans across the country expressed outrage when CNN announced that the message to Obama when bin Laden was killed was "Geronimo EKIA," (meaning enemy killed in action).
"What totally misguided member of the United States government came up with this hideous misrepresentation of the great Apache leader and warrior, Geronimo?" asked American Indian veteran Tim Giago.
"It was a great thing that happened on Sunday in Pakistan in bringing an end to the terrorist bin Laden, a man responsible for the deaths of thousands of people, Muslims as well as Americans," Giago added. "But to tag him with the name of one of the great Indian warriors in this Nation's history is a sign of ignorance of the highest order."
"It is imperative that the United States Department of Defense let all of the Native American people in America know why this horrible thing was done and if an apology is not forthcoming, this great happening will go down as another attack upon the heroes of all Native Americans," Giago said.
Lloyd Goings, another American Indian veteran, said he has never been so offended in all his life.
"I just heard it on CNN that bin Laden's code name was Geronimo. That was the most racist thing that they could do to us. I haven't been this mad in a long time," Goings said. "They place us in the same category as the world's most wanted terrorists. They called us terrorists."
"They let us serve their country and die for them and then they tag us with this?" he added. "All the Indian Veterans are angry. They just demeaned every Indian that ever served this country. That just shows what the Pentagon and the CIA thinks of us."
Per capita American Indians serve in the armed forces at rate higher than any other minority group in the United States. Every tribe across the nation holds their Akicita (warriors) and Tokala (soldiers) in high esteem and they are frequently honored at gatherings.
The code name Geronimo was probably chosen because Western intelligence believed bin Laden was holed up in a cave along the Pakistan-Afghan border, in a remote region of soaring mountains and thick forests.
Geronimo was forced to hide in the mountainous regions of New Mexico and is said to have entered a cave which had only one visible entrance, and then disappeared as US troops waited at the front.
Geronimo evaded capture for years and was said to be able to walk without leaving tracks and that he could survive being shot.
The governments used more than 5,000 soldiers to hunt him and his small band of Apache and it wasn't until they hired other Apache scouts that they were able to find him. But Geronimo was never captured and instead surrendered in 1886.
According to Indian veterans Geronimo was a man who was defending his people and land from invaders and that he was not a terrorist.
(Contact Ernestine Chasing Hawk at email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org)
UNITED STATES SENATE COMMITTEE ON INDIAN AFFAIRS to address use of 'Geronimo' as codename at hearing
May 4, 2011
The use of "Geronimo" as a codename for the U.S. military mission against Osama bin Laden will be discussed at the Senate Indian Affairs Committee hearing on racist stereotypes tomorrow.
The hearing was scheduled before the use of the codename became public. But Loretta Tuell, the staff director for the Democrats on the committee, said the "Geronimo" issue will be addressed.
"These inappropriate uses of Native American icons and cultures are prevalent throughout our society, and the impacts to Native and non-Native children are devastating," Tuell told the Associated Press.
The hearing takes place May 5th at 2:15pm in Room 628 of the Senate Dirksen Office Building. It will be webcast here:
contribute to this article
contribute to this article
add comment to discussion
view discussion from this article