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Thursday, May 05, 2011

(Updated) Fort Sill Apache Chairman Seeks Apology from President Obama for Geronimo Slur

Update: Senator Tom Udall has denounced the use of Geronimo in connection with Bin Laden.
The Chairman of the Fort Sill Apache Tribe has asked President Obama to issue a formal apology for the United State’s recent association of the name of Geronimo with Osama Bin Laden.

"We are grateful that the United States was successful in its mission against Bin Laden, but associating Geronimo's name with an international terrorist only perpetuates old stereotypes about Apaches,” said Jeff Houser, Chairman of the Fort Sill Apache Tribe, the successor to Geronimo’s Chiricahua Apache Tribe. “In the 1800's Geronimo and the Chiricahua Apache people were portrayed as savages. This portrayal was used as justification for the forced removal from their homelands and their subsequent imprisonment. Linking Geronimo’s name to an infamous terrorist only reinforces this false and defamatory stereotype.”

The letter (pdf), which was faxed to the White House on May 3, 2011, emphasizes the Apache leader’s status as a Native American icon, recalls the U.S. House of Representatives' February 2009 Resolution honoring him and makes a personal appeal to the President to “right this wrong.” Excerpt:

... 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.

The Fort Sill Apache Tribe is successor in interest to the Chiricahua and Warm Springs Apache people that lived in Southern New Mexico and Arizona until 1886, when they were forcibly removed and held as Prisoners of War of the United States for 28 years. The Tribe’s members are descendants of those people who, upon their release in 1914, remained in Oklahoma and maintained their status as independent Chiricahua and Warm Springs Apaches until the tribe was restored years later as the Fort Sill Apache Tribe. The tribe has long expressed its desire to return to its homelands.

May 5, 2011 at 12:18 AM in Native Americans, Obama Administration, Terrorism | Permalink


Making hay while the sun shines. That is what I think this is.

Posted by: Preciliano Martin | May 5, 2011 7:19:43 AM

Preciliano, Natives comprise 2% of the population. These issues matter as the esteem of the young Native Americans are at stake. Native Americans are treated with extreme prejudice in other states and certain tribes are thought of as extraneous humanity in this state. Native Americans are far from the status of Blacks in terms of regard by society and even themselves. Personally, I am sick and tired of the disrespect.
Geronimo was a hero in the face of culturalside and genocide. It besmirches Geronimo to code the enemy to his name.

Posted by: qofdisks | May 5, 2011 8:43:20 AM

Yes - this is truly a shame. I am New Mexican and Hispanic and I find it appalling that our leaders would make such a stupid and insensitive remark. I do hope that our President apologizes for this mistake. Our Native brothers and sisters have endured so much at the hands of the different people who came here to take their land. The least this country can do is treat them with respect. By calling Osama "Geronimo" our leadership clearly failed.

Posted by: RA | May 5, 2011 1:19:39 PM

One step forward. Two steps back. Mr. Obama is doing all that he can to make it impossible to canvas my ward on his behalf.

Posted by: Charlie B | May 5, 2011 1:22:07 PM

This was a very sad mistake on an otherwise triumphant event. It just goes to show we have a long ways to go before we have real equality for all people.

Posted by: Joel Davis | May 5, 2011 2:06:19 PM

@ qofdisks "certain tribes are thought of as extraneous humanity in this state."

What are you talking about? Who are these tribes you speak of?

don't be such an alarmist. I personally know several Native Americans that feel the same way I do on this mini issue.

Posted by: Preciliano Martin | May 5, 2011 4:19:41 PM

Joel Davis-You think this was an otherwise triumphant event? We've spend more than a trillion dollars so far on this "war on terrorism" alarmist bullshit. 10 years in we shot the guy we blame instead of capturing him? That's not a win. Bin Laden said he would win by bankrupting the US and he has succeeded.

Posted by: Mark | May 6, 2011 12:20:07 AM

President Obama did not make this decision, for petes sake. Yes, I too noticed the unfortunate choice of name, but that's the military for you.

How about working to remove/replace the word "Redskin," which specifically refers to the skins of dead Indians, for which a bounty was paid, from the name of a certain football team?

Posted by: Ellen Wedum | May 6, 2011 1:50:32 AM

I agree with Mark.

Posted by: qofdisks | May 6, 2011 8:40:51 AM