Saturday, May 07, 2011

Native American statements on U.S. military's use of "Geronimo" code name

Statement by Onondaga Nation Council of Chiefs, on Behalf of the Haudenosaunee:*

"We've lD'd Geronimo" -- 102 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. lt 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 World War II. 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?

From Winona LaDuke, Native American activist:

The reality is that the military is full of native nomenclature. That’s what we would call it. You’ve got Black Hawk helicopters, Apache Longbow helicopters. You’ve got Tomahawk missiles. The term used when you leave a military base in a foreign country is to go "off the reservation, into Indian Country." So what is that messaging that is passed on? You know, it is basically the continuation of the wars against indigenous people. ... It is indeed an egregious slander for indigenous peoples everywhere -- and to all Americans, I believe -- to equate Osama bin Laden with Geronimo.

Editor's Notes:

*The Haudenosaunee, or Iroquois (Six Nations Confederacy), founded over 1,000 years ago, includes the Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, Mohawk and Tuscarora Nations.

The Bell UH-1 Iroquois is a military helicopter.

** Winona LaDuke is the author of The Militarization of Indian Country. Click here for her recent comments on the military use of Geronimo on Democracy Now.

Thanks to Jessica Koski of New Warriors for the Earth for sharing the above information.

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