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Tuesday
May032011

Code Name 'Geronimo' for Osama bin Laden Mission Angers Some Native Americans

AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- As the country rejoices over the killing of Osama bin Laden, many Native Americans have different reactions: shock, dismay, hurt.

That’s because the Navy SEALs used “Geronimo” as the code name for mission to capture or kill bin Laden.

“It’s another attempt to label Native Americans as terrorists,” said Paula Antoine from the Rosebud Sioux Tribe in South Dakota.

“WTF, da gov't code named osama bin laden "Geronimo"! wat kinda [expletive] is that?” is how Cody YoungBear LeClair of Marshalltown, Iowa, put it on his Facebook page.

On Facebook, on Twitter, on Native American websites, in local newspapers and in what appear to be countless conversations on reservations and in schools across the country, Native Americans are genuinely hurt and puzzled by the choice of “Geronimo” as a code name for either bin Laden or the mission to take him out.

White House officials have insisted that the codename "Geronimo" was used as the name only for the mission, not bin Laden himself.

Navy SEALs confirmed the death of bin Laden with the line: “Geronimo E-KIA.” CIA Director Leon Panetta seemed to indicate in an interview Wednesday that "Geronimo" was the name for bin Laden when he described the raid on bin Laden's Pakistan compound.

“Once those teams went into the compound, I can tell you that there was a time period of almost 20 or 25 minutes where we -- you know, we really didn't know just exactly what was going on. And there were some very tense moments as we were waiting for information. But finally, Adm. McRaven came back and said that he had picked up the word "Geronimo," which was the code word that represented that they got bin Laden,” Panetta told PBS.

 That may be a distinction without a difference to Native American ears.

Geronimo was, of course, the 19th Century Apache leader and warrior who defended his people’s homes and families, often from U.S. forces operating in violation of treaty obligations. He was brave, fierce, elusive. He died a prisoner of the United States in 1909, 23 years after his capture.

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