THE MILITARIZATION OF INDIAN COUNTRY
From Geronimo to Bin Laden
Latest LaDuke book addresses military impacts on Native Americans- from naming of military lands to toxic waste dumps.
HONOR THE EARTH
Contact: Dawn Newbrough
With the announcement of Osama Bin Laden’s death, as “Geronimo, EKIA!” many Native people, including Geronimo’s descendants were insulted at the use of a Native patriot’s name for a “world class terrorist.” This revelation coincides with the release of Winona LaDuke’s newest book (with co-author Sean Cruz), The Militarization of Indian Country which addresses the impact of the US Military on Native peoples, lands and cultures. From military use of Native names to outright poisoning of Native peoples for military testing, the US military’s impact on Indian Country is unparalleled and as is evidenced by recent events, ongoing.
Geronimo descendant, Harlyn Geronimo, explained, “Obviously to equate Geronimo with Osama Bin Laden is an unpardonable slander of Native America and its most famous leader in history.” The Onondaga Nation released a statement that read, in part, “This comparison only serves to perpetuate negative stereotypes about our peoples.” LaDuke’s book illuminates the historical context of these negative stereotypes along with their dire consequences.
US military use of Native imagery and names is nothing new. From Blackhawk and Kiowa helicopters to “Shock and Awe” campaigns (using the infamous Seventh Cavalry which committed the Wounded Knee massacre) the military continues to associate Native Americans with the act of war.
Sometimes that association, no matter how unwanted or misguided, is intended as a sign of respect, much like sports mascots. While other times America uses imagery from past Indian Wars as a reminder that all enemies of the state both near and far can and will be defeated. Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld went as far as to equate American troops in Iraq with the infamous “Indian Killer” Kit Carson, hunting down and killing the perceived enemies of America in a modern day frontier.
LaDuke’s book delves into the parallels of today’s military with the past and America’s fascination with Native Americans and their culture while also examining the wide scale taking and toxification of Native lands. The book examines decades of nuclear testing, weapons testing, chemical weapons storage, and bombing of Native American lands. Also discussed is the military impact on Native communities in terms of cultural change associated with militarization, and the fact that Native America has the highest proportion of living veterans as well as the highest levels of enlistment.
In addition, The Militarization of Indian Country speaks to the special relationship highly controversial contractor Blackwater (now XE), the world’s largest private army, has with Native America as a “Native American contractor” and how the company has used Native people to secure preferential contracts.