Monday night while fixing dinner, I heard Diane Sawyer say Geronimo and then stumble over E KIA. I walked into the living room to hear more. She did not repeat the words so I checked for the story online to find out why Geronimo’s name was being used. The U.S. military used the code name “Geronimo” for Osama bin Laden and released Geronimo E KIA-Enemy Killed In Action.
It was disrespectful to use Geronimo’s name in association with Osama bin Laden.
On Tuesday, Fort Sill Apache Chairman Jeff Houser sent a letter to President Barack Obama asking for a formal apology.
Jefferson Keel, president of National Congress of American Indians said that since 2001, 77 Native Americans and Alaskan Natives have died defending the U.S. in Afghanistan and Iraq. More than 400 have been wounded.
Geronimo was named Goyathlay, “The One Who Yawns.” As a young boy, he learned to farm crops of corn, beans, squash, and peppers in his homeland.
Years later Mexican soldiers would murder his mother, his wife, and three of his children. Mexican soldiers gave him the name Geronimo, after the Catholic Saint Hieronymous.
In 1877 Geromino and his people were pursued by Mexican and American soldiers. Surrounded, he went to the San Carlos Reservation and surrendered. After being fed wormy hardtack and rancid beef, unable to farm in that land, lied to by one government agent after another, Geronimo left with a handful of warriors, as he would do several times in the coming years.
In March 1886, after having been pursued relentlessly by a quarter of the U.S. Army, Geronimo surrendered to General George Crook. He had about 35 warriors and 100 women and children with him in his band. Geronimo had a simple demand on behalf of those who stayed with him: if he surrendered, he said, he would submit to imprisonment for a couple of years, as long as his people were allowed to return to Arizona.
President Grover Cleveland refused. The Chiricahuas were shipped off to Fort Marion, Florida. Geronimo was not with them; with Naiche and a few others, he escaped to Mexico.
September 3, 1886, Geronimo made his final surrender to General Nelson Miles. Geronimo would never see his native land again, even though Miles promised him that on signing the peace treaty, “Your past deeds shall be wiped out . . . and you will start a new life.” He was imprisoned in northwestern Florida and put to hard labor for nearly eight years.
In 1894, along with some 340 other Apache prisoners, he was sent to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, where he farmed and posed for tourist photographs, sitting at the steering wheel of a Cadillac sedan wearing a top hat or a Plains Indian headdress.
He made an appearance in St. Louis honoring the centennial of the Louisiana Purchase, selling bows and arrows and signing autograph books.
In 1905 Geronimo made a request of President Theodore Roosevelt:
“It is my land, my home, my fathers’ land, to which I now ask to be allowed to return. I want to spend my last days there, and be buried among those mountains. If this could be I might die in peace, feeling that my people, placed in their native homes, would increase in numbers, rather than diminish as at present, and that our name would not become extinct.”
Roosevelt did not reply. Geronimo died on February 17, 1909.
American paratroopers in World War II shouted his name while jumping into battle as a tribute to the great warrior.