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Geronimo should not be linked to Osama, say American Indians

Geronimo code name debate: American Indians say it was inappropriate for the US military to assign Osama bin Laden the code name Geronimo - a real-life Apache leader who fought the US and Mexico for many years.

Geronimo code name debate: Police stand near a wanted poster of Osama bin Laden in New York just after September 11, 2001. The US military gave bin Laden the code name 'Geronimo', which American Indians are saying was inappropriate.

Russell Boyce/Reuters/File

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The top staffer for the Senate Indian Affairs Committee is objecting to the U.S. military's use of the code name "Geronimo" for Osama bin Laden during the raid that killed the al-Qaida leader.

Geronimo was an Apache leader in the 19th century who spent many years fighting the Mexican and U.S. armies until his surrender in 1886.

Loretta Tuell, staff director and chief counsel for the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, said Tuesday it was inappropriate to link Geronimo, whom she called "one of the greatest Native American heroes," with one of the most hated enemies of the United States.

"These inappropriate uses of Native American icons and cultures are prevalent throughout our society, and the impacts to Native and non-Native children are devastating," Tuell said.

Tuell is a member of the Nez Perce tribe and grew up on the tribe's reservation in Idaho. The Senate Indian Affairs panel had previously scheduled a hearing for Thursday on racial stereotypes of native people. Tuell said the use of Geronimo in the bin Laden raid will be discussed.

Steven Newcomb, a columnist for the weekly newspaper Indian Country Today, criticized what he called a disrespectful use of a name revered by many Native Americans.

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