On May 1, 2011, Osama Bin Laden was tracked down and killed by U.S. Navy Seals in Pakistan. In confirming their kill, the Seals sent a short, coded message to President Barack Obama which read:
“Geronimo-E K.I.A.” [Killed in Action]
To many Indigenous people around the world, the use of the legendary warrior’s name as a stand-in for the notorious Bin Laden was an insult. For Dallas Goldtooth and Ryan Red Cord of the sketch troupe ‘the 1491’s’ that code inspired more than outrage — it led to a performance poem entitled ‘Geronimo-E K.I.A.’ that has become popular on YouTube. (the 1491’s hail from Oklahoma and Minnesota).
Click here to play a recent radio interview given by Dallas Goldtooth to Rick Harp, host of Urban Nation Live on Winnipeg’s Streetz FM.
In the interview Dallas describes Geronimo as a powerful symbol of RESISTANCE to American imperialism and development. Geronimo represents the fight against destructive forces in Aboriginal communities.
Naturally, Geronimo is revered by some, but not all. Some First Nations dread the man because of his violent ways, specifically towards opposing tribes. To Goldtooth and Red Corn, the persona and icon of Geronimo represents much more.
Goldtooth explains: there is anger and frustration to what was communicated to the President and the poem is a response to that, but it also conveys the idea that Indian people have not been defeated. In the present, many Aboriginals do significant work towards change, and in doing so they prove that Geronimo was not killed in Pakistan.
Central to the poem is the belief that Indigenous people around the world are part of the resistance that was once displayed by Geronimo. The video concludes with the following poignant message:
“We chase his legacy, not his truth. Neither will be caught, but one of them can be made up.”
Why the U.S. military would use Geronimo as a code name for Bin Laden is mind-boggling. Aboriginals have struggled mightily and this incident is symptomatic of the struggle by mainstream America to marginalize First Nations cultures. The creative use of YouTube to respond to the hurt caused by the insensitivity of the U.S. military makes this endeavor worth studying if researchers are interested in the evolving relationship between Aboriginals and the media.