Submitted by frlarry on Tue, 05/10/2011 - 08:06

The U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs has decided to investigate the Military's use of Native American tribes and individuals to name things. Apparently some people are upset about it. The chairman of the committee doing the investigation, Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI), issued a statement (see Chairman Statement)

The effects of institutional stereotypes go beyond having a symbol around which to rally team spirit or to provide entertainment. This is not an issue about people being offended. Our hearing is about the real harm that is done to all people, Native and non-Native alike, when mascots, movies and images reinforce the stereotypes and lines that divide rather than unite us. As a Native Hawaiian and as Chairman of this Committee, it is important to do things right. In Hawaiian, we call it pono. Many peoples have a similar sense of what is right. To conduct ourselves in a manner that is pono, we must do the right things, for the right reasons, and in the right ways.

This week, we are praising our intelligence and military personnel for their tenacity and unwaivering commitment to bring Osama bin Laden to justice. They have made us proud, and I commend them. Our dedicated service members remain on the front lines in Afghanistan as Al-Qaeda continues operations across the globe, and we cannot thank them enough for their service and sacrifice. We must remain vigilant and determined in our efforts to protect the American people.

It may be little known, but Native Americans have the highest volunteer military service rates, per capita, of any group. We have won wars utilizing the unique languages of Native peoples. Just earlier this week, this nation’s highest military award, the Medal of Honor, was awarded to a Native soldier. Native Americans have demonstrated, time and time again, a commitment to our nation’s military and its security.

This week, I have received many letters and messages from tribes, Native leaders and Native veterans across the country expressing dismay with the use of Geronimo’s name in the successful operation to kill Osama bin Laden. This victory has otherwise united our country, and it is unfortunate that this code name was chosen.

That Native Americans have concerns over the unintended impacts of connecting the name of Geronimo with Osama bin Laden, in the face of their overwhelming sense of patriotism and service, only highlights the need for the larger discussion we are having today.

His words are measured, not alarmist or demagogic, as so many of the expressions our Progressive politicians are wont to employ. Personally, I think the fear aroused over the use of the code name "Geronimo" is inappropriate, as fear so often is, but if Chairman Akaka feels it is important to hear people out on this, so be it.

Unfortunately, this flap has brought extremists out of the woodwork. As it happens, the Havasu City News Herald has a rather balanced treatment of the issue in "Code names, stereotypes and SpongeBob missiles."

Of course, if Americans start equating Geronimo with bin Laden, then we indeed have a problem. Geronimo was a man of honor. Bin Laden was a thug. There is no evidence, however, that the code name given to the recent Op was intended to convey this equation, and anyone familiar with military code names would realize this. Operation Geronimo Strike III gives a clearer understanding of the intention of this code name.

Objections to names like Apache Helicopter, Tomahawk Missile, etc., are even more off base. As someone with a modicum of Native American ancestry, I find these names honorable. It would be a terrible shame if these names were dropped due to some misguided concern about stereotyping.

If the PC crowd is looking for a cause célèbre, perhaps they would better spend their time looking at the name of the Washington Redskins football team. Now a reasonable person might consider that name to be demeaning.