CityCity

Berkeley declares Native American code names offensive

Goyathlay, who was named Geronimo by Mexicans in the 19th century

Berkeley city officials adopted a resolution this week honoring the Native American leader Geronimo, but decided against asking President Obama to apologize for using his name in the May mission to kill Osama bin Laden.

Instead, the city council asked the President to retroactively change the code name of the operation from “Operation Geronimo” to “Operation bin Laden” and pledge not to use Native American names in future military actions.

The Peace and Justice Commission had sent a resolution to the city council requesting that it ask Obama to apologize for naming the raid on bin Laden “Operation Geronimo.”

“The use of the name Geronimo for the country’s most wanted terrorist is offensive, particularly to Native Americans and negatively impacts the identity and social position of Native American youth,” read part of the resolution the commission wants the city council to adopt.


On Tuesday night, councilmember Linda Maio amended the resolution on the floor to remove the language asking the city council to “send a letter to President Barack Obama calling on the United States to issue a formal apology to the Chiricahua Apache people and to the indigenous peoples of these lands of the United States for the misuse of the name Geronimo in the military operation that killed the terrorist Osama bin Laden.”

Instead, Maio suggested the letter just point out how using the name was inappropriate.

“It points out that using the name as a code name for military operations is troubling to the Native American community and requests that Obama change the title to something else,” said Maio.

Councilmember Jesse Arreguìn requested that the letter ask Obama to stop using any Native American name as a code name for a military operation.

Wendy Kenin, the Peace and Justice Commissioner who put forward the resolution, said she was satisfied with the word changes.


“Linda Maio said that ‘we don’t want the headline to ‘be Berkeley tells Obama to apologize’,” said Kenin. “She wants it to be about the content. What’s the change we are looking for? It’s about racism. That we don’t want to stand for racism. It leaves the apology up to Obama.”

The resolution also encourages the Berkeley Unified School District to use Geronimo’s autobiography in school.

The city council adopted the resolution on its consent calendar.

Related:
Berkeley Peace and Justice Commission to Obama: Apologize [10.17.11]