Congress to discuss use of Geronimo's name in Bin Laden mission
A congressional oversight hearing originally scheduled to discuss, among other things, how indigenous-themed sports mascots have negatively influenced the perception of Native Americans, will now also address the linking of the name Geronimo to Osama bin Laden.
"Geronimo" was the code name for the mission where 24 Navy SEALs raided Bin Laden's three-story million-dollar compound in Abbotabad, Pakistan; "Geronimo" was also the code the SEALs used to alert their commanders that they identified their target; and finally "Geronimo-E KIA" was the coded message to confirm that they had killed Bin Laden.
The Senate Indian Affairs committee, chaired by Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-HI), will host the hearing titled "Stolen Identities: The Impact of Racist Stereotypes on Indigenous People," which will be webcast live at 2:15 p.m. ET.
"The hearing was scheduled well before the Osama bin Laden operation became news, but the concerns over the linking of the name of Geronimo, one of the greatest Native American heroes, with the most hated enemies of the United States is an example of the kinds of issues we intended to address at Thursday's hearing," Loretta Tuell, the committee's chief counsel, said in a statement.
"These inappropriate uses of Native American icons and cultures are prevalent throughout our society, and the impacts to Native and non-Native children are devastating,” Tuell said. "We intend to open the forum to talk about them."
"To associate a native warrior with Bin Laden is not an accurate reflection of history, and it undermines the military service of native people," Jefferson Keel, president of the National Congress of American Indians, said Wednesday in a statement.
"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," Jeff Houser, chairman of the Fort Sill Apache Tribe, the successor to Geronimo’s Chiricahua Apache Tribe, wrote in a statement faxed Tuesday to the White House.
"Now a little over two years [after the House honored Geronimo] your administration has further immortalized his existence by linking him to the most hated person in recent American history," Houser complained while asking the president for an apology.
-- Tony Pierce
Photo: This photo ca. 1898 courtesy of the Library of Congress in Washington, DC shows Geronimo (Guiyatle) by F.A. Reinhart, Omaha. Credit: AFP PHOTO/F.A. REINHART-LIBRARY OF CONGRESS