May 04, 2011

Congress to examine "Geronimo" codename

Congress to Examine "Inappropriate" and "Devastating" Use of "Geronimo" Codename in bin Laden Mission

By Matthew JaffeThe Senate Indian Affairs committee will hold a hearing Thursday on racist Native American stereotypes, a hearing that will now also address the Osama bin Laden mission and the code-name Geronimo.

While the hearing was scheduled before the mission, a committee aide today said the linking of the name Geronimo with the world’s most wanted man is “inappropriate” and can have a “devastating” impact on kids.

“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.”
What the hearing is really about:

Senate Committee on Indian Affairs to hold hearing on ‘Stolen Identities: The Impact of Racist Stereotypes on Indigenous People’

By USA Senator Daniel Kahikina AkakaThe Senate Committee on Indian Affairs will be holding an oversight hearing tomorrow on the depictions of Native peoples in American society and the effect they have on these communities and the American public in general. The Committee will explore how Indian mascots, common caricatures and prevalent mis-portrayals have far-reaching impacts on the identity and sense of self-worth of Native peoples and negatively impact how all Americans perceive and relate to each other.

“Our hearing is about the real harm that is done to all people, Native and non-Native alike, when mascots, movies and images reinforce the stereotypes and the lines that divide rather than unite us,” said Senator Daniel K. Akaka, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.


Wild West shows, Hollywood films, and Indigenous based mascots have shaped the perception of Indigenous peoples for over one hundred years. Early media forms generally presented Native Americans either as noble yet submissive warriors or as bloodthirsty savages. Emerging from these shows and films were Native American mascots. Research shows that Native American mascots have negative effects on Native students’ self-esteem and sense of worth and that exposure to Native American team mascots increases a person’s negative stereotyping of other races. The awareness of the impacts of these stereotypes, actions of governments, and the emergence of Indigenous actors and directors has greatly contributed to overturning a century of harmful stereotypes.
Comment:  A single hearing will barely scratch the surface of the surface of this topic. Congress could spend a year on it full-time and still have more to examine.

I don't expect much to come of this hearing. If it raises awareness among a few politicians or media types in Washington, that's about all we can hope for.

For more on the subject, see Apaches Demand Apology for Codename and Critics Slam "Geronimo" Codename.

No comments: