The real Geronimo and "Operation Geronimo"

The heroic resistance of Geronimo and the Chiricahua Apache is one of the most potent legends in North America. Caught in the crosshairs of the United States' expansionist ambitions into their land, Geronimo led a small group of less than two hundred. For over a year, they evaded the efforts of one-quarter of the U.S. Army to wipe them out. His surrender in 1886 was one of the final episodes in centuries of U.S. wars of conquest and extermination against the indigenous tribes of North America.

After his death, his skull was stolen (supposedly by George W. Bush's great-grandfather) for the Yale secret society and ruling class incubator known as Skull and Bones. And now, we learn that the mission to kill Osama bin Laden was supposedly named "Operation Geronimo", or that bin Laden himself was codenamed "Geronimo". It's in insult, but also very telling about those at the reins of U.S. empire, and their nostalgia for the brutal conquest of the West.

The real story should be told. For part of that story, this PBS documentary, Geronimo and the Apache Resistance, gives a complex view of Geronimo's resistance with interviews by his descendants and the descendants of those who knew him. And below that is a statement by his great-grandson, Harlyn Geronimo.

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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.

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