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Fiction by Norwegian Women

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Geronimo's Code

Chief Geronimo by Edward R. Curtis
 Even my 15-year-old daughter has enough of a sense of history and of herself to know that the U.S. military’s use of the name Geronimo as a code reference for the Osama bin Laden’s execution was offensive and in keeping with the misrepresentation of Native American people. My daughter was curious if the military considered using the name of her namesake-Sojourner Truth. After all, she resisted injustice in the same bold vein as Geronimo.
Geronimo’s birth name was Goyathlay . He lived in what is now New Mexico, but during his time was part of Mexico. It was his fierce response to the attacks perpetrated by Mexican soldiers that earned him the name St. Jerome (Geronimo in Spanish). These soldiers invoked the name of this Roman Catholic saint to protect them against prowess of Goyathlay’s resistance. He would later defend himself and his people from U.S. aggression, though evetually he would be captured and live his life as a prisoner of war until his death in 1909.

( *As an aside, look into the rumor, that has yet to be laid to rest, that Prescott Bush, George W.’s grandfather, stole Geronimo’s skull. …American history? )

Here’s a poem by Renny Golden that I recently discovered.

By Renny Golden

Words, you Whites, want words.

Nothing, I give you nothing.

Here, stones, the Sierra Madres has

something you can’t use:

the witness of rocks who speak

the language of mountains. We are

this land, stones inside the rain, inside

the mountain which keeps the graves.

Here, Grey Wolf, is another lie, hard

as granite, I give it to you, call it sustenance.

Eat---Why do I give you promise after promise,

rock instead of bread? I want to break your

trust the way Mexicans broke my wife, my mother,

my three babies, their scalps in blood rivers. What

fear can you offer to a dead man? After that

I did not pray…I had no purpose left. I could not

call back my loved ones. I could not bring back

dead Apaches but I could rejoice in …revenge.

So no, I’m not trustworthy. I am wily,

a coyote slipping into shadow. Is it

honor to promise open land and pen us

at San Carlos, that stink hole? See our

lonely ponies, our mountains pouring.

What did you expect…truth? Whose?

Every vow a snakebite; every safe place

a trap. Treachery? Oh, I am a holy trickster,

son of White Painted Woman. I love mescal

which is all I have left of escape, a poison as greedy

as the givers. Mescal… there is something of use.

We are not.

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