Apache Tribe Seeks Apology from President Obama
LOS APACHES DE LA TRIBU DE GERONIMO HAN DIRIGIDO UNA CARTA DE RECONVENCIÓN A OBAMA … UNA JALADA DE OREJAS… EN BUENA CUENTA.
Estimado Presidente Obama:
En nombre de la Tribu Apache San Carlos, expresamos con vehemencia nuestra objeción y oposición a la aplicación del nombre de nuestro líder Gerónimo, como un eufemismo militar, a un hombre malvado, Osama bin Laden, por parte del gobierno de los Estados Unidos. El Consejo Tribal Apache San Carlos ha empleado mucho tacto y ha consultado cuidadosamente sobre esta cuestión extremadamente sensible y solicitamos respetuosamente que usted haga lo siguiente:
(1) Emita inmediatamente una disculpa formal por igualar el nombre de Gerónimo con Osama bin Laden en su operativo militar;
(2) Emita inmediatamente una orden ejecutiva, como Comandante en Jefe, para que el nombre de “Geronimo” nunca más se utilice despectivamente y en asociación con un enemigo conocido de los Estados Unidos;
(3) Promueva Políticas Federales Indígenas, que busquen exaltar y reconocer las contribuciones indígenas a la sociedad estadounidense, como la de la Tribu Apache San Carlos, e implemente políticas para mejorar la forma de vida de la gente Apache.
Como se describe en detalle líneas abajo, la Tribu Apache San Carlos aprovecha esta oportunidad para ofrecerle una perspectiva histórica y el contexto que explica por qué el uso del nombre de Geronimo es tan ofensivo y porqué el mal uso ha degradado el nombre de nuestro líder de Apache y es sintomático de los retos y los problemas que enfrentamos en la Reservación Apache San Carlos.
Gerónimo, no era en realidad el nombre que le dio su familia, así lo llamaban los mexicanos y los primeros colonos, fue uno de los muchos líderes de la Tribu Apache de San Carlos que tomaron las armas para defender sus hogares, sus mujeres, los niños , la tierra y su forma de vida. Este país no era estéril, cuando llegaron los primeros colonos. La tierra era abundante y bien poblada por muchos indígenas orgullosos que formaban parte de las muchas Naciones Indígenas de América.
En febrero de 2009, los Apaches de la Tribu San Carlos honramos a Geronimo en la Reservación, con una dedicación especial, para conmemorar los 100 años de su fallecimiento. El gobierno de Arizona y el gobierno de los Estados Unidos de manera similar honraron a Gerónimo y la resolución H. Res. 132, del 111° Congreso, honró a Gerónimo, por su “extraordinaria valentía y su compromiso por la defensa de su patria, su pueblo y la forma de vida apache.”
La Reserva Apache de San Carlos abarca más de 1,8 millones de acres y es el hogar de más de 14,500 miembros inscritos indios, así como hogar de muchos miembros no indios. Estoy orgulloso de servir como presidente de la Tribu Apache San Carlos que rinde homenaje a sus Veteranos de Guerra, con las celebraciones del Día de los Veteranos de Guerra, que consiste en un desfile, rodeo, carnaval y otras festividades. Es con gran orgullo que honramos a nuestros veteranos de guerra que sufren grandes dificultades en aras de la libertad y seguridad de todos los norteamericanos. Por estas razones siempre hemos apoyado y seguimos apoyando a nuestros veteranos de guerra que viajan muy lejos para entrar en combate para que los estadounidenses podamos seguir viviendo en libertad.
Numerosas familias han informado al Consejo Tribal Apache de San Carlos su profunda decepción y angustia mental al enterarse de que un hombre tan malo y odiado y enemigo número uno de los Estados Unidos fue designado como Geronimo en una operación militar. Que se les diga que el nombre de Gerónimo se asocia con Osama bin Laden es una cruel ironía para un pueblo que ha luchado heroicamente y con firmeza por los Estados Unidos de América.
Es importante tener en cuenta que el uso del lenguaje y del nombre es muy importante en el camino de la vida del Apache. En el lenguaje del Apache, las palabras tienen significados específicos muy especiales y únicos. Así, mientras que algunos pueden encontrar que el uso de Geronimo como un nombre de código no tiene mucho sentido, es todo lo contrario para los miembros de la Tribu Apache.
Los nativos americanos han contribuido enormemente al desarrollo de los Estados Unidos. Casi todos los cultivos agrícolas actuales se obtuvieron de los nativos americanos. La democracia de Estados Unidos fue CALCADA del modelo de las tradiciones iroqueses como una estructura de gobierno SUPERIOR en comparación con las monarquías de Europa.
El uso del nombre Geronimo en asociación con el enemigo más odiado de los Estados Unidos sólo refuerza los estereotipos negativos de los apaches como enemigos de los Estados Unidos. Como estoy seguro que ustedes saben, un sinnúmero de indígenas americanos han luchado valientemente en nombre de la Estados Unidos de América, incluyendo a Ira Hayes, de la tribu O’odham de Arizona, quien fueron los marines que izaron la bandera en Iwo Jima en la Segunda Guerra Mundial . Una mujer de la tribu Hopi, recientemente recibió honores fúnebres en Arizona después de haber caído en el conflicto de Irak. Tenemos numerosos miembros de la Tribu Apache San Carlos que están sirviendo en el ejército de Estados Unidos en Irak y Afganistán. Se les hace una gran injusticia al referirse a Osama bin Laden como “Geronimo”.
Por desgracia, la historia de la Tribu Apache San Carlos ha estado repleta de promesas incumplidas por parte del gobierno federal, que ha contribuido sustancialmente a los problemas sociales que encaran los apaches en la vida diaria. Sufrimos de tasas de desempleo extremadamente altas, el abuso de alcohol, el abuso de drogas y otros males sociales han contribuido a los ciclos de la pobreza en la reserva. Desde el inicio, las políticas federales, como la expulsión de los apaches de sus tierras más fértiles, intento de eliminación del lenguaje Apache, intento de eliminación de la cultura apache, entre muchas otras, nos han creado dificultades extremas. Sin embargo, cuando se trata de servir a nuestro país, ningún pueblo ha luchado más valientemente y con más coraje que los apaches.
Esperamos contar con vuestro liderazgo, como presidente de los Estados Unidos, para eliminar el estereotipo lamentable que vivimos en una sociedad de vaqueros e indios donde los indígenas americanos somos de alguna manera los enemigos. No somos enemigos. Somos una parte fuerte y dinámica de la sociedad americana.
Sr. Presidente, de la misma manera como usted puso la corona fúnebre para reconocer las vidas que se perdieron el 9/11 en la Zona Cero, es nuestra sincera esperanza de que reconozca las importantes contribuciones culturales y espirituales de los indígenas americanos, como la Tribu Apache San Carlos. Que el Gran Espíritu al que todos pedimos a nuestra manera, os proporcione orientación para ayudar a nuestro pueblo y nuestra nación. Nosotros, los apaches, somos personas espirituales. Y creemos que la oración puede hacer posible lo que parece imposible.
Le invitamos cordialmente a visitar la Reserva de la Tribu Apache San Carlos para continuar nuestro diálogo en beneficio de nuestro pueblo. Que Dios los bendiga, que Dios bendiga a la Tribu Apache San Carlos, y que Dios bendiga a los Estados Unidos de América.
San Carlos Apache Tribe
Sen. John Kyl
Sen. John McCain
Sen. Daniel Akaka
Rep. Paul Gosar
John Lewis, Inter Tribal Council of Arizona
Jefferson Keel, President of the National Congress of American Indians
San Carlos Apache Tribe Vice Chairman John Bush
San Carlos Apache Tribal Council Members
La descalcificación política del “HOMBRE MAS PODEROSO DEL MUNDO” se evidenció cuando no tuvo en cuenta que el Jefe Indio Geronimo es una figura paradigmática y una guía espiritual para los pieles rojas.
hahahah master piece..thumbs up!!!
The version of the Iroquois Constitution I quote and link to was written down in 1915. As in Britain today, the Constitution existed primarily as oral tradition, not as a single written text. The oral constitution of the Iroquois is now believed to date to 1090-1150 AD.
Jean Houston has some good ideas about how to understand the Iroquois spiritual work, and how it can serve global spiritual democracy. We have a great deal to learn from many tribal peoples if we are to develop direct and participatory democratic systems. We would do well to honor the spiritual powers of the earth and ask for direct guidance and inspiration in our own time. Can Dekanawidah come again, to all of us? He belongs to this place, this continent–if we do as well, perhaps he will speak from within. I honor him, Great Peacemaker
San Carlos Apache Tribe Seeks Apology from President Obama
San Carlos Apache Tribal Chairman Terry Rambler has joined the voices objecting to use of the code name “Geronimo” for Osama bin Laden. In this letter written on behalf of the tribe, he seeks an apology from the President.
May 6, 2011
Dear President Obama:
On behalf of the San Carlos Apache Tribe, we vehemently object and oppose the designation of the name of our Apache leader, Geronimo, as a military euphemism for an evil man, Osama bin Laden, by the United States. The San Carlos Apache Tribal Council has thoughtfully and carefully consulted on this extremely sensitive issue and respectfully request that you do the following:
(1) Immediately issue a formal apology for equating the name of Geronimo with Osama bin Laden as part of the military exercise;
(2) Immediately issue an Executive Order, as Commander in Chief, that the name “Geronimo” never be used disparagingly and in association with a known enemy of the United States;
(3) Promote Federal Indian Policy that seeks to uplift and recognize Native American contributions to society, such as that of the San Carlos Apache Tribe, and implement policies to improve the way of life for the Apache people.
As described in more detail below, the San Carlos Apache Tribe takes this opportunity to provide you historical perspective and context as to why the use of Geronimo’s name is so highly offensive and how this misuse and degradation of our Apache leader’s name is symptomatic of the challenges and problems we face on the San Carlos Apache Reservation.
Geronimo, which was not the name actually provided to him by his family and instead was referenced to him by Mexican and early American settlers, was one of many Apache leaders of the San Carlos Apache Tribe who took arms to defend their homes, women, children, land base and way of life. This country was not barren when early settlers arrived. The land was lush and well populated by many proud Native American Indian nations.
In February 2009, the San Carlos Apache Tribe honored Geronimo with a special dedication on the San Carlos Apache Reservation commemorating the 100th year of his passing. The Arizona government and the United States government similarly honored Geronimo and H.Res. 132, from the 111th Congress, honored Geronimo for his “extraordinary bravery, and his commitment to the defense of his homeland, his people and Apache ways of life.”
The San Carlos Apache reservation encompasses over 1.8 million acres and is home to over 14,500 enrolled members, as well as many non-members and non-Indians. I am proud to serve as chairman of the San Carlos Apache Tribe that honors its veterans with extensive Veteran’s Day celebrations consisting of a parade, rodeo, carnival and other festivities. It is with great pride that we honor our veterans who endure great hardships for the benefit of our freedom and safety. For these reasons we have always and continue to support and praise our veterans for traveling far and wide to engage in combat so that Americans can continue to live in freedom.
Numerous Apache families have informed the San Carlos Apache Tribal Council of their extreme disappointment and mental anguish from learning that such an evil and hated man and number one enemy to the United States was designated as Geronimo in a military operation. To be told that the name Geronimo is associated with Osama bin Laden is a cruel irony for a people that have fought heroically and steadfastly for the United States of America.
It is important to note that the use of language and names is critically important under the Apache way of life. In the Apache language, specific words have very special and unique meanings. So, while some may find that using Geronimo as a code name does not have much meaning, the opposite is true for members of the San Carlos Apache Tribe.
Native Americans, such as the San Carlos Apache Tribe, have contributed greatly to the development of the United States. Nearly all of the current agricultural crops were obtained from Native Americans. America’s democracy was modeled after Iroquois traditions as being a preferred governmental structure as compared to the monarchies of Europe.
The use of Geronimo in association with the most hated enemy of the United States only reinforces negative stereotypes of Apaches as somehow enemies of the United States. As I am sure you are aware, countless Native Americans have fought valiantly on behalf of the United Staes of America, including Ira Hayes, an Arizona O’odham, who was one of the Marines who raised the flag at Iwo Jima in World War II. A Hope female servicewoman recently received honors in Arizona after being killed in the Iraq conflict. We have numerous members of the San Carlos Apache Tribe that are serving in the United States military in Iraq and Afghanistan. It does them a great injustice to refer to Osama bin Laden as “Geronimo.”
Unfortunately, the history of the San Carlos Apache Tribe has been replete with broken promises by the federal government which has substantially contributed to the social problems Apaches face in everyday life. We suffer from extremely high unemployment, alcohol abuse, drug abuse and other social ills that have contributed to cycles of poverty on the Reservation. Since the inception of the San Carlos Apache Tribe, federal policies ranging from the removal of the tribal members from its most fertile lands to the attempted elimination of Apache language and culture have created extreme hardships for the Apache people. Yet when it comes to serving our country, no people have fought more valiantly and courageously than the Apaches.
We look forward to your leadership, as President of the United States, to eliminate the unfortunate stereotype that we live in a cowboy-and-Indian society and that Native Americans are somehow enemies. We are not enemies. We are a strong and dynamic part of the American society.
Mr. President, as you placed the wreath to acknowledge the lives that were lost on 09/11 at Ground Zero, it is our sincere hope that you acknowledged the important cultural and spiritual contributions of Native Americans, such as the San Carlos Apache Tribe. May the Great Spirit that we all pray to in our own cultural ways and beliefs provide you guidance to help our people and our Nation. We, the Apaches, are spiritual people. And we believe there is unforeseen and dynamic power in prayer that can make the seemingly impossible, possible.
We cordially invite you to visit the San Carlos Apache Reservation to continue our dialogue for the benefit of our people. May God Bless you, May God Bless the San Carlos Apache Tribe, and May God Bless the United States of America.
San Carlos Apache Tribe
Sen. John Kyl
Sen. John McCain
Sen. Daniel Akaka
Rep. Paul Gosar
John Lewis, Inter Tribal Council of Arizona
Jefferson Keel, President of the National Congress of American Indians
San Carlos Apache Tribe Vice Chairman John Bush
San Carlos Apache Tribal Council Members
Bin Laden Code Name Offends Native Americans
Native American leaders in the United States expressed outrage that the name of Geronimo was used as a military codename during the commando raid that killed Osama bin Laden.
Code name for bin Laden operation offends American Indians.
The Post and Courier Oneida Indian Nation to Obama Administration: Geronimo Should Not. When I found out the military was using the name of a Native American as a codename for Bin Laden, I felt deeply embarrassed. I’m not surprised that Native Americans around the country from all tribes, not just the Onondagas.
In the operation targeting him, bin Laden was given the code name of one hero in the Native American struggle.
Code-Name “Geronimo” is not Politically Correct.
Following quick on the heels of the announcement of Osama Bin Laden’s demise at the hands of U.S.
Special Forces Special Operations personnel, the public has learned more about the top secret operation to find this elusive enemy. One of the most revealing bits of trivia has been that Bin Laden was assigned the code name “Geronimo” by the operation tasked with capturing and killing him. This raises the question, what does a nineteenth century Apache leader have to do with twenty first century Saudi millionaire? Perhaps nothing when viewed from an academic standpoint, it seems more like a non sequitur. But when read as expression of an underlying ideology, one that has legitimated American military action for centuries, the answer is: quite a lot, actually.
In his seminal work Playing Indian, Philip Deloria describes the history of white performance in Indian disguise, exploring the role of the Indian in the American national imaginary. Mainstream American perceptions of Indians are defined by a dialectic of repulsion and desire. The Indian, he writes, is at once “Us” and “Not-Us.”
In this ambivalent relationship, Indians as savages serve as “oppositional figures against whom one might imagine a civilized national Self” (Deloria 1998:3). Yet just as frequently Indians were trotted out as symbols of freedom for they were in possession of “barbarian virtues,” to borrow a phrase from Matthew Frye Jacobson, that deserved to be emulated especially as an antidote to the supposed ills of modernity and city life with its changing gender norms.
This was a uniquely American nationalism: one that saw itself as civilized, yet not European, native born of a society rooted in ancient history and of the natural American landscape. This history shows that Indian play has always “[clung] tightly to the contours of power” (Deloria 1998:7) within U.S. national subjectivity. Indian play, Deloria argues, came to serve a function in the ongoing search for an authentic and meaningful social identity in the face of modernity’s uncertainties. This tradition of playing Indian in the U.S. has wrought a slue of stereotypes in U.S. popular culture including: the Indian as environmentalist, spiritual messenger or guide, team mascot, filmic protagonist, and tourist destination.
Turning now from Deloria’s critical analysis of practices American cultural and literary expression, we can see how Indian play has served a prominent role in helping Americans make sense of war. As a polysemous and highly flexible trope of the U.S. military, Indian imagery in representations of American military conflict constitutes a veritable genre unto itself. Broadly speaking it boils down to two general types that mirror Deloria’s dialectic of desire and repulsion: the Indian as martial ally and the Indian as worthy opponent.
Geronimo, an Apache
Making Bin Laden into an Indian elevates him. The Washington Post isolates Geronimo’s elusiveness, “[he] was rumored to be able to walk without leaving any tracks,” as the key trait that links him to Bin Laden. This is meant to illustrate some degree of respect the American military leaders have for their foe. It also serves to cast the United States in a better light. We are, after all, magnanimous in victory. By heaping praise upon one’s enemy, likening them to such a worthy opponent as Geronimo, the American military bestows prestige upon themselves. They won the fight by besting a legend.
A little excess social capital couldn’t have come at a more opportune time. Playing Indian is a dynamic practice, changing with time as American anxieties change from one generation to the next. Giving Bin Laden the code name “Geronimo” rises out of the need to address the ambivalence Americans have over the value of the current war. By imbuing it with Indians the war is legitimated but it is also made comprehensible. The current war is made legible in terms of previous wars. In fact, the ideology of American/ Indian martial conflict and the contradictory imagery of Indians as Us and Not-Us plays itself out, over and over again, in every American military conflict. This is part of American culture and shows how we make war make sense.
A defining element of the War on Terror has been the theme of “civilization,” the role of the US military in combating “barbarians” and reform efforts to save foreign populations from their backwards cultures. For example when, in April 2004, four Blackwater private security contractors were lynched in Fallujah, Iraq, the following day Paul Bremer, then chief of the Coalition Occupation, addressed a cohort of Iraqi men and women graduating from the police academy. “The men and women who are standing before us today are the line between civilization and barbarism,” he said, “Yesterday’s events in Fallujah are a dramatic example of the ongoing struggle between human dignity and barbarism” (Updike 2004:20).
In June 2004 National Public Radio reporter Nancy Updike aired a collection of stories on the program This American Life centering on the lives of private contractors in Iraq. Most of Updike’s stories center on the aptly named security company Custer Battles, a group she worked with despite having been warned to stay away from. One of her key informants, Hank, admitted, “We got a bad reputation, probably as gunslingers,” (Updike 2004:9).
She shares a rumor that the Custer Battles team had engaged in a gunfight at their hotel, “and when the smoke cleared, it turned out they had been firing at each other the whole time” (Updike 2004:9). Hank clarified that something like that did happen, their hotel was hit by a rocket powered grenade and Custer Battles retaliated by expending 3000 rounds of ammunition out the hotel windows and into the surrounding neighborhood. With no clear consequences for private contractors acting recklessly because of their ambiguous legal status, Hank was prompted to address the issue from his own worldview.
People shooting people and not being held accountable for shooting people? Oh, I suppose there’s a lot of that going on. And I think in this brief period of time just like in the Wild West, you control your own company. You assert a little bit of control in your own little world. (Updike 2004:9).
Hank has found a way to make sense of the chaos of the situation by reckoning the current war through a common myth of the American past that is informed by the representation of war in popular culture.
We can learn more about this notion of the “wild west” by considering Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show and its legacy in U.S. popular culture. In order to elevate the story of the American west into something on the scale of a Barthesian myth, Buffalo Bill Cody’s hero needed an enemy worth his mettle: the cowboy needed an Indian as his foil and Cody found his greatest financial success when he employed real Indians (including such luminaries as Sitting Bull and Black Elk) to play the part. Buffalo Bill’s Wild West made an enduring impact on popular memory and popular culture through its shaping of the Western genre as a nationalist narrative by which Americans could imagine their relationship to a world of non-American others.
Joy Kasson argues in her Buffalo Bill’s Wild West: Celebrity, Memory and Popular History, that over its lifetime the Wild West show changed in relation to the development of modernity. Thus in the early days of the 1880s when the frontier was “open” and war with the tribes was raging,
Audiences understood that its spectacle was fiction but approved its claims to authenticity… Buffalo Bill’s frontier was contemporaneous but spatially distant; it existed right now on the Great Plains, and Buffalo Bill had just arrived to tell his audience all about it (Kasson 2000:221).
After the Massacre at Wounded Knee brought armed Indian resistance to an end and railroads expedited commerce and travel to the Pacific coast, it became increasingly difficult to maintain that the “wild west” still existed and whereas Buffalo Bill’s performances had once been imagined as coeval with its audience, his later days are best described as fomenting a nostalgic denial of coevalness. Kasson writes, “In the early days, the claim to ‘realism’ rested on physical remoteness, but after 1890, the Wild West made its best case for authenticity by invoking temporal remoteness” (Kasson 2000:222).
When Cody’s narratives shifted from reportage to historical reenactment he also began to imagine future wars as repetitions of the Indian wars. For example with the advent of the Spanish-American war, Cody proposed a unique strategy for dealing with the Spanish in a newspaper piece titled, “How I Could Drive the Spaniards from Cuba with 30,000 Indian Braves.” Indians, those malleable national symbols, were here fashioned into bellicose warriors, a stereotype his show had helped to create, in order to re-imagine the same as a secret weapon for the U.S. military. Kasson offers a compelling interpretation, “Cody projected the capture of Havana as if it were already an act in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West; he imagined war imitating the re-enactment of war and, in particular, modern war replaying the Indian wars” (Kasson 2000:249).
In the early twentieth century Buffalo Bill’s success gradually gave way to cinema and the birth of the genre of Western films. Jacquelyn Kilpatrick’s Celluloid Indians identifies an important filmic device of Westerns: our white hero is somehow able to out Indian the Indians, “becoming a superior form of native fighter and supplanting the ‘vanishing’ Indian” (1999:43). Beginning with the silent films themselves drawing on Buffalo Bill, Indians were represented as icons of conflict and violence.
Then during World War II, an interesting thing happened. Indians, who fifty years earlier were still at war with the U.S., were now enlisting in the military in droves and a complicated nationalist mythos emerged to claim these definitively American soldiers —think Ira Hayes and the Navajo codetalkers. In 1944 Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes described the advantages of having Indians among the U.S. soldiers. Thanks to their “inherited talents,” Indians have,
…endurance, rhythm, a feeling for timing, co-ordination, sense perception, an uncanny ability to get over any sort of terrain at night, and, better than all else, an enthusiasm for fighting. He takes a rough job and makes a game of it. Rigors of combat hold no terrors for him; severe discipline and hard duties do not deter him (Finger 1991:108).
It would seem that Secretary Ickes had seen a great many Westerns because these qualities are more frequently displayed by fictional characters than real people. And this fictional role of Indians as fighters in the American national imaginary had consequences for soldiers who happened to be Indian.
In his oral history of Native American Vietnam veterans, Strong Hearts, Wounded Souls (1996), one of Tom Holm’s informants, a Creek and Cherokee man describes his experience:
I went into the army and to Vietnam because I’d seen the same John Wayne movies as everyone else and thought I was doing an honorable thing, that war was the ‘Indian way’… But when I got to Vietnam, I found that my job was to run missions into what everybody called ‘Indian country.’ That’s what they called enemy territory… I woke up one morning fairly early in my tour and realized that instead of being a warrior like Crazy Horse, I was a scout used by the army to track him down. I was on the wrong side of everything I want to believe I was about (Holm 1996:175).
Upon reflecting on his decision to go to war, this man points to his experience of seeing Indians represented in cinema as an important motivator. He and “everyone else” saw John Wayne in the Westerns. Popular culture helped him envision his enlistment in the tradition of Indian warriors, yet during the war he no longer thought of his participation so romantically.
Over the course of his research, Holm found that the vast majority of Indian vets believe that they were singled out for especially dangerous jobs because they were Indian. This included being assigned to the “point” position or being first in line as a platoon traversed the jungle. A Navajo vet explains:
[I was] stereotyped by the cowboys and Indian movies. Nicknamed ‘Chief’ right away. Non-Indians claimed Indians could see through trees and hear the unhearable. Bullshit, they even believed Indians could walk on water (Holm 1996:152).
Many Indian vets reported being exclusively committed to scouting activities called Long Range Reconnaissance Patrols or Lurps. These were teams of six men that would explore enemy areas and then report back by radio. In 1968 many of these Lurp teams were consolidated and assigned even more dangerous missions as “hunter-killer” teams that would dress as Vietnamese peasants and attempt to execute counter-guerilla operations. American Indians who could “pass” for Asian were frequently used on such missions.
These Indian experiences of war get re-inscribed into popular culture too, for example in the movie Predator (1987), staring Arnold Schwarzenegger as “Dutch” and featuring an Indian character named Billy, played by Sonny Landham. In Predator Dutch leads a team of six men into the Columbian jungle to disrupt Communist guerilla activity, naturally he has an Indian for a scout. Billy’s powers of observation are almost magical: he is able to count the number of Columbian guerillas by their boot prints. Billy walks point. He is first to find new clues and first to leave the group after receiving his orders. Frequently Billy will sense something, he will pause, and the music will tense. He carries a medicine bag around his neck and when he senses the Predator nearby we see him fondle that bag. Billy is a sign that the rest of the commando team reads, they can tell that he is “spooked” and acting “squirrelly” which sets them all on guard.
At the end of the movie Billy is the last fighting character to die before Dutch and the alien go one-on-one. Following Billy’s demise, at the movie’s climax Dutch is only able to defeat the monster by covering his body with mud, to protect against the alien’s infrared vision, and relying on a bow and arrow instead of his machine gun. Thus, with the death of the Indian, Dutch is able to become an Indian with a painted body and primitive weapon. By playing Indian, Dutch is able to become more Indian than Billy because he is able to defeat the alien, something the real Indian could not accomplish.
The myth of “the Indian” and the American frontier should inform our critique of the ongoing war on terror. And I’m not just talking about George W. Bush being called a “cowboy” – although Playing Cowboy opens up whole new fora of analysis to serve as a foil to Playing Indian.
During the Western Indian Wars, White-Indian conflict got represented in popular culture by means of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West. The Wild West show gave way to cinema, the Western genre, and modern forms of popular culture. The Western genre becomes very popular, such that during the Vietnam era, some Indians claim to have been motivated by the representations of Indians in the movies to join the military. While in Vietnam these Indian soldiers experience racism at the hands of non-Indians that, to their eyes, drew upon the Westerns. Then in the 1980s using generic tropes of the Western, Predator re-inscribes the Vietnam War experiences of Indians into popular culture. Now in Iraq and Afghanistan, we find that private security contractors and the US government are using tropes from the Western genre, that of gunslingers, the wildness of the “Wild” West, and indomitable foes such as Geronimo to make sense of and legitimate their experience of war. A war often rendered in terms of “civilization.”
Maybe Buffalo Bill Cody was onto something when he imagined war imitating the re-enactment of war because narrative devices originating in the Western Indian wars continue to be used in the construction of the meaning of war.
Deloria, Philip Joseph
1998 Playing Indian. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Finger, John R.
1991 Cherokee Americans : the eastern band of Cherokees in the twentieth century. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.
1996 Strong Hearts, Wounded Souls: Native American Veterans of the Vietnam War. Austin: University of Texas Press.
Kasson, Joy S.
2000 Buffalo Bill’s Wild West : Celebrity, Memory, and Popular History. New York: Hill and Wang.
2004 “I’m From the Private Sector and I’m Here to Help” : Private contractors in Iraq. In This American Life: NPR.
nobody care about poor people unless their own government care about them
Escribió Malcolm Allison