Onondaga Nation Territory -- Leaders of the Onondaga Nation blasted as “reprehensible” the code name used for Osama bin Laden in the commando assault that killed him: “Geronimo.”
“We’ve ID’d Geronimo,” U.S. forces reported by radio Sunday to the White House. Later, word came that “Geronimo” was dead.
Geronimo was an Apache leader in the 19th century who spent many years fighting the Mexican and U.S. armies until his surrender in 1886.
“Think of the outcry if they had used any other ethnic group’s hero,” the Onondaga Council of Chiefs said in a release Tuesday. “Geronimo bravely and heroically defended his homeland and his people, eventually surrendering and living out the rest of his days peacefully, if in captivity.”
“Geronimo is arguably the most recognized Native American name in the world,” the chiefs said, “and this comparison only serves to perpetuate negative stereotypes about our people.”
The chiefs said the incident revived memories of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s remark last year that Gov. David Paterson should “get yourself a cowboy hat and a shotgun” to deal with Indian affairs.
“It’s typical,” said Onondaga Tadodaho Sid Hill, the nation's spiritual leader. He said Geronimo was a hero to American Indians and it was incomprehensible that “they use him to identify a man like Osama Bin Laden.”
“Why would that be honorable to us?” he asked.
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“All they know is just cowboys and Indians, the stuff they saw on TV.”
Hill said he had higher hopes for President Obama, who he said was adopted by the Blackfoot tribe during the 2008 election campaign. “Nobody seems to be able to see our side."
Loretta Tuell, staff director and chief counsel for the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, had a similar same reaction.
“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.
Tuell is a member of the Nez Perce tribe and grew on the tribe’s reservation in Idaho.
Steven Newcomb, a columnist for the weekly newspaper Indian Country Today, criticized what he called a disrespectful use of a name revered by many Native Americans.
“Apparently, having an African-American president in the White House is not enough to overturn the more than 200-year American tradition of treating and thinking of Indians as enemies of the United States,” Newcomb wrote.
“It’s frustrating,” said Hill. “We just can’t let this slide again.”