Opinion: Apache Tribe asks Obama to apologize for linking Geronimo’s name to Bin Laden


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The Fort Sill Apache Tribe in Oklahoma is asking President Obama for a formal apology for using the code name ‘Geronimo’ in reference to Osama Bin Laden during the successful operation that eventually killed the notorious terrorist.

‘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.

‘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 letter E stood for ‘enemy’ while the letters KIA meant ‘killed in action.’

The Apaches are upset that after all this time, Americans are still equating Native Americans with savages and enemies.

‘In the 1800s Geronimo and the Chiricahua Apache people were portrayed as savages,’ Houser wrote. ‘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,’ Houser said in the statement asking Obama to ‘right this wrong.’

Born in what would later become New Mexico in 1829, Geronimo spent many years successfully fighting Mexican and U.S. armies until 1886 when he and 35 warriors surrendered to Gen. Nelson Miles near the Arizona-New Mexico border.

Geronimo was sent to an Army outpost at Ft. Sill in Oklahoma, where he eventually died of pneumonia in 1909. The Fort Sill Apache Tribe are descendants of the native Americans who lived in southern New Mexico and Arizona until they were held as prisoners of war for 28 years 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,’ according to the tribe’s website.


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-- Tony Pierce