by Levi Rickert, editor-in-chief in Native Challenges. Discussion »
WASHINGTON DC - United States Senators, who are members of the Committee on Indian Affairs, heard how displeased American Indians are with the Pentagon’s choice of the Geronimo EKIA (EKIA = Enemy Killed in Action) code name for the killing of Osama bin Laden during an oversight hearing on Capitol Hill on Thursday.
The hearing called, “Stolen Identities: The Impact of Racist Stereotypes on Indigenous People” was timely given the widespread displeasure of American Indians throughout the United States.
The Senate committee was already planned prior to this week’s dramatic event of finding and killing Osama bin Laden.
But, as the events were released in the media, it was disclosed on Monday by Leon Panetta, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, that the Navy Seals conveyed the death of bin Laden through code to the National Security Council, including President Obama, saying, “Geronimo, EKIA.” The use of Geronimo’s name offended American Indians from across America.
American Indians testifying on Capitol Hill used the “Stolen Identities” hearing to speak about the inappropriateness of invoking Geronimo’s name into the covert operation to capture bin Laden.
“When we associate Geronimo with someone like bin Laden, even if it is used to depict the courage to capture him, the negative impact is inevitable,”
Chaske Spencer (Sioux/Cherokee/Creek), who gained fame for his role, as Sam Uley, in the “Twilight” movie series.
Suzan Shown Harjo
“Well, yes we must start with Geronimo, the man and the leader and the person who has become a fine role model for our children all over Indian Country and for him to be compared to a terrorist or an enemy is shocking-really shocking,” said Suzan Shown Harjo (Cheyenne/Muscogee), president of The Morning Star Institute. “It was just not about his name being used, that would be bad enough, because that is what happens in America. Our names are stolen.”
“The deepest insult was not delivered upon Al Qaeda abroad but to a small population here at home,”
commented Charlene Teeters (Spokane), professor at the Institute of American Indian Arts, speaking passionately about the reference to Geronimo code talk.
Dr. Stephanie Fryberg
Poignant testimony was made by Dr. Stephanie Fryberg, associate professor social and cultural psychology at the University of Arizona, who testified to the negative impacts the use of American Indian mascots. She testified that using American Indian mascots has negative impacts on American Indians, resulting in lowered self-esteem, higher anxiety and depression.
Conversely, the use of American Indian mascots results in positive patterns among Euro-Americans in a study cited by Dr. Fryberg. Euro-Americans benefit from the usage of American Indian mascots through a boost of self-esteem.
“The use of American Indian mascots not only promotes, the development, endorsement and activation of negative attitudes and behaviors towards contemporary American Indians, but they reinforce inequality and, in so doing, undermine race relations in this country,”
testified Dr. Fryberg.
Others who testified were Tex Hall, chairman of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation and Great Plains Tribal Chairman’s Association and Jim Werne (Oglala Lakota), president of Warrior Society Development and former NFL player.
Chaske Spencer considers the use of American Indian mascots in sports and for team names a form of stereotyping.
“Stereotypes limit the opportunities of those stereotyped,”
To view the Committee on Indian Affairs Hearing »
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