May 05, 2011

Advocates criticize codename at hearing

Geronimo Code Name Criticized During Senate Hearing

By Julie SteinbergThe United States Senate Committee on Indian Affairs had a lot to talk about at today’s hearing. While the session was originally convened to discuss the impact of racial stereotypes, like Native-themed mascots, on indigenous people, both panels’ testimony also focused on U.S. forces using the name “Geronimo” in the operation that took down Osama bin Laden. (Various news reports have quoted U.S. officials as saying that “Geronimo” was the name of the operation and that “Jackpot” was the code word for bin Laden.)

“I find the association of Geronimo with bin Laden to be highly inappropriate and culturally insensitive,” said Tom Udall, a Democratic senator from New Mexico who conducted the hearing.

Suzan Shown Harjo, the president of The Morning Star Institute, an organization that promotes Native rights and research, said that for Geronimo to be “compared to a terrorist and called an enemy is shocking.”

The hearing received a dose of star power from Chaske Spencer, who plays Sam Uley in the “Twilight” fantasy-romance films. Spencer, who is Native American, said he was the target of racism as a child and also had a hard time finding parts that weren’t just “feathers and leathers” roles. He also condemned the use of the name Geronimo, saying that “we need to be more conscious of the associations we make.”
For more on the subject, see Congress to Examine "Geronimo" Codename, Apaches Demand Apology for Codename, and Critics Slam "Geronimo" Codename.

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