05/06/2011 04:05 pm ET Updated Jul 06, 2011


There is a lot of misconception about American Indians in our world. Most of this false ideology comes from early propaganda meant to make people scared of the Indians. Later, with the advent of films and television, these stereotypes got cemented and the false images made their way all over the world.

Most American Indian tribal names are not the real names of the Indian nations. They were names given to them by their enemies or more correctly, the Indians who worked with the United States Cavalry to fight the Indians who resisted the white ways. The word "Apache" -- the tribal name for N'de people -- originally came from the Zuni word "apachu," a derogatory term that means "enemy strangers."

Also, Geronimo's real name was Goyakola, "the one who yawns a lot." We see this kind of name abuse in many areas. The Apache Helicopter is another one -- a killing machine named after the Apache Nation. In France, the street nick name for a thug is "Apache." I could go on and on, about how the Red Skins football team or Cleveland Indians baseball team's mascots are just as offensive, for instance.

American Indian heroes, and their names, should not be used without an understanding of who these folks really were and what they still mean to their people. Most of this I blame on Hollywood and the way the Indians were always demonized in film and TV -- it's no wonder the world has such a false image of the Red Nation and its heroes.

The recent commando operation by the Navy Seals was very impressive and daring, but all that is lost when I heard that the code name for the most wanted terrorist in the world is none other than the name of our revered Apache medicine man and resistance leader, Geronimo. Could this be just a mistake? Or were they referring to Osama bin Laden as Geronimo because he [Osama] evaded capture for a decade, just as Geronimo did for 25 years in the deserts of Arizona and New Mexico?

Either way, this has started a new debate that has even the chairman of Geronimo's own tribe asking for an apology from the U.S. government. We live in very sensitive times and these kinds of choices must be made with more care to whom they may or may not offend. Once again, we are showing the world how we care -- or don't care -- for our original people.