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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:
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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.