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TRIBAL NEWS

June 2011

 

Firestorm Over Use of Code Name "Geronimo" for Osama Bin Laden

For those who contend that the good name of a great American Indian Chief was not besmirched by it being used as a code name for bin Laden, the following is the headlines of a column that appeared in the New York Times. It shoots that notion in the foot.

The Death of Osama bin Laden

 

Farewell to Geronimo

By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN, Op-Ed Columnist

Published May 3, 2011, New York Times

 

Harlyn Geronimo

On Behalf of Descendants of the Historic Apache Leader Chief Geronimo

 

This following statement is being submitted to the official record of the United States Senate Commission on Indian Affairs Oversight Hearing on "Stolen Identities: The Impact of Racist Stereotypes on Indigenous People,” taking place Thursday, May 5, 2011, at 2:15pm in Dirksen-628.

 

Statement from Harlyn Geronimo on behalf of himself and other surviving lineal descendants of the Historic Apache Leader Geronimo

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.

 

As the son of a grandson of Geronimo, who as a U.S. soldier fought at Omaha Beach on D Day and across West Europe to the Rhine in World War II, and having myself served two tours of duty in Vietnam during that war, I must respectfully request from the President, our Commander-in-Chief, or his Secretary at the Department of Defense, 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 expungement 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.

 


 

Haudenosaunee, Onondaga Nation, New York

Press Release, May 3, 2011

 

"We've ID'd Geronimo" - 1O2 years after his death Geronimo is still being killed by U.S. Forces.

 

This is a sad commentary on the attitude of leaders of the U.S. military forces that continue to personify the original peoples of North America as enemies and savages. The use of the name Geronimo as a code name for Osama Bin Laden is reprehensible. Think of the outcry if they had used any other ethnic group’s hero. Geronimo bravely and heroically defended his homeland and his people, eventually surrendering and living out the rest of his days peacefully, if in captivity, passing away at Fort Sill, Oklahoma in 1909. To compare him to Osama Bin Laden is illogical and insulting. The name Geronimo is arguably the most recognized Native American name in the world, and this comparison only serves to perpetuate negative stereotypes about our peoples. The U.S. military leadership should have known better.

 

It all brings to mind the August 13, 2010 statement by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg advising then Governor Paterson to “get yourself a cowboy hat and a shotgun” to deal with Indian affairs. This kind of thinking indicates little progress in a mature social development of United States leadership.

 

The military record of American Indians is exemplary. We have more men and women per capita volunteering in U.S. military services than any other ethnic group. It was American Indian code talkers that used their native languages to carry and transmit messages that Japanese and German intelligence could not decode, saving thousands of American lives in WWII. Ironically these brave men and women were using languages that American and Canadian boarding schools were doing their best to stamp out. When can we expect respect for our human dignity and human rights?

 

Onondaga Nation Council of Chiefs, on Behalf of the Haudenosaunee

 

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