DCentric » Geronimo http://dcentric.wamu.org Race, Class, The District. Wed, 16 May 2012 20:20:35 +0000 en hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.2.1 Copyright © WAMU Geronimo’s Great-Grandson On Bin Laden Code Name http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/05/geronimos-great-grandson-on-bin-laden-code-name/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/05/geronimos-great-grandson-on-bin-laden-code-name/#comments Thu, 05 May 2011 19:56:31 +0000 Elahe Izadi http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=6599 Continue reading ]]>

F. A. Rinehart/Getty Images

Chief Geronimo of the Apache tribe of Native Americans photographed in captivity in 1898.

Geronimo’s great-grandson slammed the U.S. government Thursday for giving Osama bin Laden “Geronimo” as a code name.

Harlyn Geronimo submitted testimony to the Senate Commission on Indian Affairs for its hearing today on racist stereotypes of Native Americans. In his statement, he demanded that President Barack Obama or Defense Secretary Robert Gates give:

a full explanation of how this disgraceful use of my great grandfather’s name occurred, a full apology for the grievous insult after all that Native Americans have suffered and the (removing) from all the records of the U.S. government this use of the name Geronimo. Leaving only for history the fact this insult to Native Americans occurred in all its pity.

As we pointed out yesterday, some Native Americans feel particularly insulted by this code name given that indigenous Americans serve in the military at disproportionately high rates. Harlyn Geronimo is himself a veteran, having been a soldier in the Vietnam War. What’s more, so is his father, who Harlyn says served during World War II and was on Omaha Beach during D-Day.

See more of Haryln’s testimony below:

Whether it was intended only to name the military operation to kill or capture Osama Bin Laden or to give Osama Bin Laden himself the code name Geronimo, either was an outrageous insult and mistake. And it is clear from the military records released that the name Geronimo was used at times by military personnel involved for both the military operation and for Osama Bin Laden himself.

Obviously to equate Geronimo with Osama Bin Laden is an unpardonable slander of Native America and its most famous leader in history.

And to call the operation to kill or capture Osama Bin Laden by the name Geronimo is such a subversion of history that it also defames a great human spirit and Native American leader. For Geronimo himself was the focus of precisely such an operation by the U.S. military, an operation that assured Geronimo a lasting place in American and human history.

The Encyclopedia Britannica (1967, Volume 10, page 362) has described the real Operation Geronimo in the following words:

During this last campaign, which lasted 18 months, no fewer than 5,000 troops and 500 Indian auxiliaries had been employed in the apprehension of a band of Apaches comprising only 35 men, 8 boys and 101 women, who operated in two countries without bases of supply. Army and civilian losses totaled 95; Mexican losses were heavy, but unknown; Geronimo’s losses were 13 killed, but none from direct U.S. Army action.

Geronimo was not killed and was not captured. After the Chiricahua Band of Apaches were taken from reservations in Arizona Territory and New Mexico to Ft. Marion, Florida, Geronimo and his warriors saw no chance of reuniting with their people except by surrender with the promise that they would be reunited with their tribe.

General Miles promised: “There is plenty of timber, water, and grass in the land to which I will send you. You will live with your tribe and with your family. If you agree to this treaty you shall see your family within five days.” None of the promises were kept.

Nearly half the Chiricahua band, the band of Cochise, died in Florida and later in Alabama within several years before being moved to Ft. Sill, Oklahoma. Geronimo was held a prisoner of war for the remaining 23 years of his life, though he was a major attraction at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis in 1904 and was second only to President Elect Theodore Roosevelt in the applause received along the Inaugural Parade route of 1905.

But Geronimo died a prisoner of war at Ft. Sill in February 1909. His bodily remains, if none were removed as has been alleged, are to this day in the Ft. Sill Apache Prisoner of War Cemetery despite his repeated requests to return to the headwaters of the Gila River in the Gila National Forest and within what was the first forest wilderness area designated in the U.S., in western New Mexico.

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Bin Laden and Geronimo: What Makes an American Enemy? http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/05/bin-laden-and-geronimo-what-makes-an-american-enemy/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/05/bin-laden-and-geronimo-what-makes-an-american-enemy/#comments Wed, 04 May 2011 18:04:11 +0000 Elahe Izadi http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=6459 Continue reading ]]>

Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Apache leader Geronimo

Osama bin Laden’s U.S. militarily code name was Geronimo, who was a 19th-century Apache leader. The Washington Post reports:

In a triumphant moment for the United States, the moniker has left a sour taste among many Native Americans.

“I was celebrating that we had gotten this guy and feeling so much a part of America,” Tom Holm, a former Marine, a member of the Creek/Cherokee Nations and a retired professor of American Indian studies at the University of Arizona, said by phone Tuesday. “And then this ‘Geronimo EKIA’ thing comes up. I just said, ‘Why pick on us?’ Robert E. Lee killed more Americans than Geronimo ever did, and Hitler would seem to be evil personified, but the code name for bin Laden is Geronimo?”

Geronimo fought neighboring Mexicans and spent 10 years eluding U.S. troops as he revolted against white settlement in Apache territory. He is considered a hero by many Native Americans. So is it appropriate to equate this Native American figure with America’s number one enemy? Holm’s comments are even more poignant given the over-representation of Native Americans in the military; in 2007, they made up .73 percent of the U.S. population but 2.86 percent of the new recruits.

In D.C., just 0.3 percent of the city’s population reported as being American Indian and no other race in the 2010 Census. Thus, local debates over racism in Native American imagery typically erupt over the name of D.C.’s NFL team, the Redskins. Efforts to change the name have been ongoing, although such campaigns hit a roadblock in 2009. That’s when the Supreme Court refused to take up a case brought by a group of Native Americans who wanted the team’s name changed because they considered it a racial slur.

But the bin Laden-Geronimo link picks at a sore point for Native Americans nationally and locally. Suzan Shown Harjo, president of D.C.-based Native American advocacy group Morning Star Institute, told the Post that nicknaming bin Laden as Geronimo shows:

… how deeply embedded the ‘Indian as enemy’ is in the collective mind of America… To this day, when soldiers are going into enemy territory, it’s common for it to be called ‘Indian country.’

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