Apache Chief Geronimo
(Goyathlay) ("one who yawns")

Geronimo, Chief of the Chiricahua Apache tribe, was born in present-day Clifton, Arizona.

After his wife, children, and mother were killed by Mexicans in 1858, he participated in a number of raids against Mexican and American settlers, but eventually settled on a reservation.

In 1876 the U.S. government attempted to move the Chiricahua from their traditional home to the San Carlos Reservation; Geronimo then began ten years of intermittent raids against white settlements, alternating with periods of peaceful farming on the San Carlos reservation.

In March 1886, the American general George Crook captured Geronimo and forced a treaty under which the Chiricahua would be relocated in Florida; two days later Geronimo escaped and continued his raids. General Nelson Miles then took over the pursuit of Geronimo, who was chased into Mexico and captured the following September.

The Native Americans were sent to Florida, Alabama, and finally to Fort Sill, Oklahoma Territory, where they settled as farmers. Geronimo eventually adopted Christianity. He took part in the inaugural procession of President Theodore Roosevelt in 1905. Geronimo dictated his memoirs, published in 1906 as Geronimo's Story of His Life. He died at Fort Sill on February 17, 1909."

"Geronimo," Microsoft®® Encarta®® Online Encyclopedia 2003 http://encarta.msn.com ©© 1997-2003 Microsoft Corporation. All Rights Reserved.


For more information please read Chief Geronimo (Goyathlay) ("one who yawns") His own Story


For those who contend that the good name of a great American Indian Chief was not besmirched by it being used as a code name for bin Laden, the following is the headlines of a column that appeared in the New York Times. It shoots that notion in the foot.

The Death of Osama bin Laden

Fairwell to Geronimo

By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN, Op-Ed Columnist

Published May 3, 2011, New York Times


Harlyn Geronimo

On Behalf of Descendants of the Historic Apache Leader Chief Geronimo

This following statement is being submitted to the official record of the United States Senate Commission on Indian Affairs Oversight Hearing on "Stolen Identities: The Impact of Racist Stereotypes on Indigenous People,” taking place Thursday, May 5, 2011, at 2:15pm in Dirksen-628.

Statement from Harlyn Geronimo on behalf of himself and other surviving lineal descendants of the Historic Apache Leader Geronimo

Whether it was intended only to name the military operation to kill or capture Osama Bin Laden or to give Osama Bin Laden himself the code name Geronimo, either was an outrageous insult and mistake. And it is clear from the military records released that the name Geronimo was used at times by military personnel involved for both the military operation and for Osama Bin Laden himself.

Obviously to equate Geronimo with Osama Bin Laden is an unpardonable slander of Native America and its most famous leader in history.

And to call the operation to kill or capture Osama Bin Laden by the name Geronimo is such a subversion of history that it also defames a great human spirit and Native American leader. For Geronimo himself was the focus of precisely such an operation by the U.S. military, an operation that assured Geronimo a lasting place in American and human history.

The Encyclopedia Britannica (1967, Volume 10, page 362) has described the real Operation Geronimo in the following words:

"During this last campaign, which lasted 18 months, no fewer than 5,000 troops and 500 Indian auxiliaries had been employed in the apprehension of a band of Apaches comprising only 35 men, 8 boys and 101 women, who operated in two countries without bases of supply. Army and civilian losses totaled 95; Mexican losses were heavy, but unknown; Geronimo’s losses were 13 killed, but none from direct U.S. Army action."

Geronimo was not killed and was not captured. After the Chiricahua Band of Apaches were taken from reservations in Arizona Territory and New Mexico to Ft. Marion, Florida, Geronimo and his warriors saw no chance of reuniting with their people except by surrender with the promise that they would be reunited with their tribe.

General Miles promised: "There is plenty of timber, water, and grass in the land to which I will send you. You will live with your tribe and with your family. If you agree to this treaty you shall see your family within five days." None of the promises were kept.

Nearly half the Chiricahua band, the band of Cochise, died in Florida and later in Alabama within several years before being moved to Ft. Sill, Oklahoma. Geronimo was held a prisoner of war for the remaining 23 years of his life, though he was a major attraction at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis in 1904 and was second only to President Elect Theodore Roosevelt in the applause received along the Inaugural Parade route of 1905.

But Geronimo died a prisoner of war at Ft. Sill in February 1909. His bodily remains, if none were removed as has been alleged, are to this day in the Ft. Sill Apache Prisoner of War Cemetery despite his repeated requests to return to the headwaters of the Gila River in the Gila National Forest and within what was the first forest wilderness area designated in the U.S., in western New Mexico.

As the son of a grandson of Geronimo, who as a U.S. soldier fought at Omaha Beach on D Day and across West Europe to the Rhine in World War II, and having myself served two tours of duty in Vietnam during that war, I must respectfully request from the President, our Commander-in-Chief, or his Secretary at the Department of Defense, a full explanation of how this disgraceful use of my great grandfather’s name occurred, a full apology for the grievous insult after all that Native Americans have suffered and the expungement from all the records of the U.S. government this use of the name Geronimo. Leaving only for history the fact this insult to Native Americans occurred in all its pity.


The following is some of the commentary about the United States military using Geronimo as a code name for Osama Bin Laden

Haudenosaunee, Onondaga Nation, New York

Press Release, May 3, 2011

"We've ID'd Geronimo" - 1O2 years after his death Geronimo is still being killed by U.S. Forces.

This is a sad commentary on the attitude of leaders of the U.S. military forces that continue to personify the original peoples of North America as enemies and savages. The use of the name Geronimo as a code name for Osama Bin Laden is reprehensible. Think of the outcry if they had used any other ethnic group’s hero. Geronimo bravely and heroically defended his homeland and his people, eventually surrendering and living out the rest of his days peacefully, if in captivity, passing away at Fort Sill, Oklahoma in 1909. To compare him to Osama Bin Laden is illogical and insulting. The name Geronimo is arguably the most recognized Native American name in the world, and this comparison only serves to perpetuate negative stereotypes about our peoples. The U.S. military leadership should have known better.

It all brings to mind the August 13, 2010 statement by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg advising then Governor Paterson to “get yourself a cowboy hat and a shotgun” to deal with Indian affairs. This kind of thinking indicates little progress in a mature social development of United States leadership.

The military record of American Indians is exemplary. We have more men and women per capita volunteering in U.S. military services than any other ethnic group. It was American Indian code talkers that used their native languages to carry and transmit messages that Japanese and German intelligence could not decode, saving thousands of American lives in WWII. Ironically these brave men and women were using languages that American and Canadian boarding schools were doing their best to stamp out. When can we expect respect for our human dignity and human rights?

Onondaga Nation Council of Chiefs, on Behalf of the Haudenosaunee


Racism is alive and well. Bin Laden is given the name of one of our revered heroes, Geronimo. An apology is in order from the highest up!

Take care, Mi'kmaq Elder, (Dr.) Daniel N. Paul, C.M., O.N.S.

Bin Laden Code-name “Geronimo” Is a Bomb in Indian Country

By Lise Balk King , May 3, 2011

The US government may have captured and killed Osama Bin Laden with a surgical strike, but it also dropped a bombshell on Native America in the process. “We’ve ID’d Geronimo,” said the voice of the Navy SEAL who reported the hunt for Osama bin Laden was over. The President, and all those gathered in the situation room, waited on edge for the voice to return with the triumphant news, that in fact, “Geronimo” was dead.

According to multiple sources, “Geronimo-E KIA” is the message that was sent to the White House by the strike team to announce that bin Laden, the “E,” or Enemy, was Killed In Action.

As news of bin Laden’s death spread relief across America and the world, revelations that the assigned code name of Enemy Number One was “Geronimo,” a legendary Apache leader, caused shock waves in Indian communities across the country. It is being interpreted as a slap in the face of Native people, a disturbing message that equates an iconic symbol of Native American pride with the most hated evildoer since Adolf Hitler.

The death of bin Laden is arguably the most important news story of the year, and embedded within it is a message that an Indian warrior, a symbol of Native American survival in the face of racial annihilation, is associated with modern terrorism and the attacks on 9/11.

The “bin Laden is dead” news story will make thousands of impressions on the minds of people around the globe, and the name Geronimo will now be irrevocably linked with the world’s most reviled terrorist.

Potentially the most disturbing fact is what this says to American Indian children. It equates being Native American with being hated, an enemy to the world, and someone to be hunted down and killed, and re-casts one of their heroes into a villainous role.

Time Magazine’s Swampland blog first reported the details yesterday that the target, Osama bin Laden, was code-named Geronimo, in keeping with The White House’s afternoon press conference.

But the story coming from the White House evolved by evening, with what appears to be a “re-tooling” of the message, which now states that the “mission” was code-named Geronimo.

The CNN White House blog featured a historic black and white photo of Geronimo and the headline, “Osama bin Laden codename “Geronimo”, for the duration of the afternoon at whitehouse.blogs.cnn.com. There is currently a post with the title “Osama bin Laden mission codename ‘Geronimo” (emphasis added) with a timestamp of 4:46 PM, though some commentators express outrage over the earlier title.

Tribal members from around the country are turning to social networking sites Facebook and Twitter as an outlet to express their anger and sadness at the unwelcome association. “This sucks,” said Harold Monteau, an attorney and tribal member from Rocky Boy, Montana, “A lot of people are angry about the obvious stereotypes it implies.”

“It’s another attempt to label Native Americans as terrorists,” said Paula Antoine from the Rosebud Sioux Tribe in South Dakota. Beaver North Cloud, a JemezPueblo tribal member from Albuquerque, New Mexico expressed her frustration, saying “Damn it!!!!! Why am I not surprised, yet so disappointed beyond words.”

It is unthinkable to many tribal people that the reviled killer and enemy of all Americans, Osama bin Laden, would be code-named after perhaps the most famous American Indian. But it is especially ironic in light of the fact that Native Americans historically serve in the United States Armed Forces in higher numbers per capita than any other ethnic group, and have been doing so for over 200 years.

More than 12,000 tribal members stepped up to fight in WWI for a country that did not recognize them as citizens. In 1924, the passage of the Snyder Act finally granted them citizenship, gave them the “right” to vote, and made them eligible for the draft. In WWII, they signed up in numbers far outpacing their expected contributions. More than 44,000 tribal members enlisted for military service out of an estimated total population of just over 350,000.

This makes one wonder: How many American Indians are serving in the Navy today, and how many are members of the SEALs, the heroic soldiers who performed the daring mission that took out bin Laden Sunday night?

In any case, this incredible lapse in judgment on the part of the Department of Defense, code named “Geronimo,” presents an opportunity to finally teach the American public, and the world, another lesson in American history.

Yes, it’s true that Geronimo and his cohorts were fierce warriors and chiefs, and they fought bravely against the decimation of their homes and families. It’s also true that their descendents are on the battlefield today, in places such as Afghanistan and Iraq. They help to defend us against those who would commit acts of terror on what is now our shared homeland, which was once theirs alone.

They stand shoulder to shoulder with American citizens of all races. It’s time for the rest of America to stand with them.

Lise Balk King is a Masters in Public Administration candidate at the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government, class of 2011. She serves as a Senior Editor, US Domestic Policy, for the Harvard Kennedy School Review. Before attending Harvard, Lise co-owned and operated The Native Voice, an independent national Native American newspaper. She can be reached at lise_balk_king@hks11.harvard.edu


Geronimo code name to get Senate look

By SUSAN MONTOYA BRYAN The Associated Press, Fri, May 6 - 4:54 AM

Geronimo: The U.S. Senate Indian Affairs Committee didn’t know when it scheduled a hearing on racial stereotypes that members would have such an emotionally charged name to discuss. But the use of the Apache leader’s moniker as a code name for Osama bin Laden has appalled many native Americans and drawn calls for an apology.

The legendary warrior was known for his ability to walk without leaving footprints, allowing him to evade thousands of Mexican and U.S. soldiers, much like bin Laden evaded capture for the past decade. But for native Americans, there’s an important difference: Geronimo was a hero — not a terrorist.

Statements of disapproval from tribal leaders, a call for President Barack Obama to apologize, and scores of angry comments on social network sites have surged since the issue came to light after bin Laden was killed.

Thursday’s hearing was scheduled long before details about the Geronimo code name became public. However, the committee will address the matter, said Loretta Tuell, staff director and chief counsel for the committee.

Many native Americans say that while they are angered, they are not surprised. They say the code name is yet another insult in a long, tumultuous history with the federal government.

"The government does what it wants when it wants. The name calling is going to stay around forever. But when you think about it, this is an insult," said Leon Curley, a Navajo and Marine veteran from Gallup, N.M.

Jeff Houser, chairman of Geronimo’s Fort Sill Apache Tribe, noted in a letter to Obama that the decision behind the code name stemmed from an ongoing cultural disconnect, not malice. But the damage is the same.

"We are quite certain that the use of the name Geronimo as a code for Osama bin Laden was based on misunderstood and misconceived historical perspectives of Geronimo and his armed struggle against the United States and Mexican governments," Houser wrote.


The following is a prime example of how systemic racism degrades the dignity of American Indians. Quoted from a Denver Post opinion piece:

Geronimo for bin Laden offensive

By Simon Moya-Smith

Posted: May 6, 2011

"American Indians expect to be belittled and dehumanized at every turn. We expect to attend schools where the mascot is an Indian named Savage. We expect cutting cultural appropriation by wannabe Indians. But what I, a Lakota, couldn't have anticipated was the ignorance and naivete of President Barack Obama, his administration and the U.S. military.

CNN this week revealed that the military code name for Osama bin Laden was Geronimo, a highly revered historical figure in the American Indian community.

"We've ID'd Geronimo," said a Navy SEAL. A short time later, President Obama and his cohorts nestled in the situation room received confirmation that "Geronimo" was, in fact, dead.

Take a look, folks. This is the face of ignorance.

"This is blatant racism," said Ray Ramirez of the Native American Rights Fund in Boulder. Ramirez added that although the connection made between bin Laden and the honored Apache warrior is brazen, it's nothing new. "When insurgents leave an area, [the military] will say 'He's gone off the reservation,' " he said. "I really don't know what it's going to take to change things."

What other races of people would sit idly by as such an audacious affront debased one of their honored and respected ancestors? Would the black community have objected if Osama's code name were "Malcolm X"? Would the Hispanic community have taken to the streets if bin Laden was called "Caesar Chavez"? Would whites have protested had Thomas Jefferson been the code name for bin Laden?

I suppose, though, since American Indians make up only 1 percent of the population, there was no real concern that we'd revolt...."


Headline of an opinion column, Halifax Herald, May 8, 2011

Cool Hand Obama gets Geronimo bin Laden


Click to read about American Indian Genocide