City Council could adopt resolution honoring Native American activist’s legacy

Berkeley City Council will decide whether to support a resolution at its meeting next Tuesday honoring the memory of legendary Apache tribe leader Geronimo by sending a letter to President Barack Obama condemning the use of the leader’s name in the operation that led to the death of Osama bin Laden.

The resolution, submitted by the Peace and Justice Commission, honors Geronimo — also called Goyathlay or Goyaale in traditional Chiricahua Apache culture — by encouraging schools across the nation to adopt his autobiography into their curriculum, and calls upon Obama to issue a formal apology to Native Americans for using the indigenous hero’s name for a military mission waged against a terrorist leader.

The resolution also demands that the mission henceforth be referred to by another name, such as Operation bin Laden.

“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,” the resolution reads.

In popular culture, the chief’s name exists as an exclamation used before engaging in acts of bravery. Shouting “Geronimo!” as a war cry began with paratroopers jumping from planes in World War II, according to resolution.

The code name used for the military operation that led to the death of bin Laden last May offended many Native American tribes, who resented the comparison between a leader viewed as a freedom fighter in their culture and a noted international terrorist.

Some have argued that the mission’s name merely resulted from the fact that bin Laden managed to remain hidden for many years while the United States continued to search for him in vain, just as Geronimo was able to evade capture by the U.S. government for some time prior to his eventual imprisonment.

The commission voted at its June 6 meeting to submit the resolution to promote peace and justice on the local level, as well as nationally and internationally.

Adelyn Baxter covers city government.