I have every sympathy with the Fort Sill Apache Tribe who have written to President Obama asking him why the name of their revered ancestor Geronimo was used as a codename for Osama bin Laden in the operation that led to his death in Pakistan. The fact that bin Laden had been killed was reported back to Washington with the words "Geronimo EKIA" - Enemy Killed in Action.
"Our Tribe like most of the country was ecstatic about your announcement that Osama bin Laden had been killed in a military operation in Pakistan. The performance of our military and intelligence agencies in locating and taking action against Osama bin Laden made us all of proud to be Americans", writes Jeff Houser, who in these democratic days, is chairman of the tribe.
"To equate Geronimo or any other native American figure with Osama bin Laden, a mass murderer and cowardly terrorist, is painful and offensive to our tribe and all Native Americans," he adds.
"Geronimo was a renowned Chiricahua Apache leader who personally fought to defend his people, territory and way of life. Unlike the coward Osama bin Laden, Geronimo faced his enemy in numerous battles and engagements. He is perhaps one of the greatest symbols of Native American resistance in the history of the United States."
Houser points out that in 2009 the US House of Representatives honoured Geronimo for "his extraordinary bravery, and his commitment to the defense of his homeland, his people and Apache way of life".
Geronimo and his people lived in Southern New Mexico and Arizona until 1886, when they were forcibly removed and held as prisoners of war for 28 years. They were eventually released in 1914 in Oklahoma, where today's members of the Fort Sill Apache Tribe still live, although they have never given up on their wish to return to their homelands. Geronimo died after 23 years in captivity.
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