The Native American Journalists Association (NAJA) is very grateful and proud that the United States government has captured one of the biggest terrorists known to mankind. However, in doing so, the U.S. government has contributed to the stereotyping of Native Americans by utilizing a historical Native icon such as Geronimo, to set the scene for American ridicule by comparing him to the capturing and killing of Osama Bin Laden.
The information distributed to multiple-media sources across the nation, on the U.S. government’s behalf, has proved to the Native Nations across the board, that the American people in addition to the U.S. government still don’t understand that we, the Native People of this land, are not here for constant public humiliation.
In the New York Time’s article, “Clues Gradually Led to the Location of Osama Bin Laden, Leon E. Panetta, the C.I.A. director, narrated “We have a visual on Geronimo,” he said. A few minutes later: “Geronimo EKIA.” Enemy Killed In Action.
Since this information hit the news stands through out the nation, NAJA has received numerous call of complaints from our fellow colleagues and tribal members who were upset to find out that again, our Native People are being equated to a terrorist/murderer/enemy number one. We ask the Federal Government could there not have been another name used in reference to this attack? Could we not have used another infamous enemy in reference to Bin Laden perhaps, Custer or Columbus? Our Native people have served in this country’s military in the highest numbers per capita of any racial group and this is the way they are repaid for their service given to the U.S.?
Native American soldiers helped the U.S. in World War 2 with their language used as codes. George Red Elk, Comanche Indian Veterans Association Commander said he was, too, “very upset of the code name that was chosen for the operation of killing Osama Bin Laden. The Comanche Nation, as well as all Native American Nations, have served this country honorably and many have paid the ultimate sacrifice to ensure we can still have the freedoms that are in our U.S. Constitution.”
Since 2001, 61 American Indians and Alaskan Natives have died defending our country in Afghanistan and Iraq. More than 400 have been wounded. Native Nations also lost Lori Piestewa, the Hopi woman, believed to be the first Native American woman ever to die in combat while serving in the U.S. military. All our Native service men and women have served honorably and continue to serve.
This is not a matter of being sensitive, it’s a matter of respect. It’s time the U.S. respect the original people of this land and the Native people who step up to defend our freedoms.
It is unacceptable for the U.S. to equate Geronimo with Osama bin Laden. Geronimo stood up for his people, their traditions, and the land they lived upon. Geronimo was no terrorist. He was a member of North America’s homeland security, and Native North Americans will never forget that.
We ask the federal government to apologize for the use of Geronimo’s name with this operation as many of our Native Nations have been offended. As every culture, we too have our own concepts of how American history played out and we believe that we can all agree to disagree.
Regardless, the U.S government has a responsibility to the people of this country, Native people are very much a part of and for that reason, utilizing the name Geronimo was an unacceptable choice of words.
Rhonda LeValdo, President
Native American Journalists Association