The leader of Apache warr
(AP Photo/National Archives, Ben Wittick, File)
FILE - This 1887 file photo provided by the National Archives shows the famed Indian warrior Geronimo, a Chiricahua Apache, posing with a rifle. The leader of the Fort Sill Apache Tribe is looking for a formal apology from President Barack Obama for the government's use of the code name ''Geronimo'' for Osama bin Laden.
The leader of Apache warrior Geronimo's tribe is asking President Barack Obama for a formal apology for the government's use of the revered figure's moniker as a code name for Osama bin Laden.
Fort Sill Apache Tribal Chairman Jeff Houser sent a letter to the president Tuesday, saying equating the legendary Apache warrior to a "mass murderer and cowardly terrorist" was painful and offensive to all Native Americans.
The letter was posted Wednesday morning on the Oklahoma tribe's website.
"Right now Native American children all over this country are facing the reality of having one of their most revered figures being connected to a terrorist and murderer of thousands of innocent Americans," Houser wrote. "Think about how they feel at this point."
Houser noted Obama was elected on a message of compassion and change. Forever linking the memory of Geronimo to "one of the most despicable enemies this country has ever had" shows neither compassion to Native Americans nor change in perception of Indians or their struggle, he said.
The White House referred questions on the matter to the U.S. Defense Department, which said no disrespect was meant to Native Americans.
The department wouldn't elaborate on the use of "Geronimo," but said code names typically are chosen randomly so that those working on a mission can communicate without divulging any information to adversaries.
Meanwhile, news about the code name spread quickly across Indian Country and on social network sites, resulting in a groundswell of criticism against the government. Several tribes and tribal leaders issued statements of disapproval, while many Facebook and Twitter posted angry comments, some using historical photos of the Apache leader for their profile pictures.
Geronimo is a legend among Apaches and other Indian tribes for the fierce fighting he brought on during the 19th century as he tried to protect his land, his people and their way of life from encroachment by U.S. and Mexican armies.
Stories have been passed down about the Chiricahua Apache leader being able to walk without leaving footprints, helping him evade the thousands of soldiers and scouts who spent years looking for him throughout the Southwest.