NCAI statement on use of 'Geronimo' for Osama codename

Jefferson Keel, the president of the National Congress of American Indians, issued the following statement on the use of "Geronimo" as a codename for the U.S. military mission against Osama bin Laden. Keel, a member of the Chickasaw Nation, is a retired U.S. Army officer with over 20 years active duty service. He served two tours in Vietnam and received numerous awards and decorations for heroism.

We join President Obama in reflecting on the sacrifices made by the members of our military to defend our great nation. When terrorists attacked on 9/11, it was an attack on our homeland that deeply affected tribal nations, along with our fellow citizens. Osama bin Laden was a shared enemy. Since 2001, 77 American Indians and Alaskan Natives have died defending our country in Afghanistan and Iraq. More than 400 have been wounded.

Let’s be very clear about what is important here; the successful removal of Osama bin Laden as a threat to the United States honors the sacrifice these Native warriors made for the United States and their people.

Our understanding is that bin Laden’s actual code name was ‘Jackpot’ and the operation name was ‘Geronimo.' To associate a Native warrior with bin Laden is not an accurate reflection of history and it undermines the military service of Native people. It’s critical that military leaders and operational standards honor the service of those who protect our freedom.

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