What’s in a (Amerindian) name? Let’s ask the Army.

posted at 11:01 am on June 29, 2014 by Jazz Shaw

I know what you’re thinking. Good Lord, not another Washington Redskins racism story. I can relate to that feeling, since I’ve been sick of the subject since I first heard of it as a young man. Well, fear not… it may have started there, but today we’ll jog off on an interesting side path which has cropped up. It isn’t just sports teams which use names associated with indigenous Americans – far from it – and Dr. James Joyner highlights one example which is right in front of our faces… at least if you’re anywhere near an Army base. He references a piece by Simon Waxman, who argues that the US Army is slurring Native Americans with the names of our helicopters.

In the United States today, the names Apache, Comanche, Chinook, Lakota, Cheyenne and Kiowa apply not only to Indian tribes but also to military helicopters. Add in the Black Hawk, named for a leader of the Sauk tribe. Then there is the Tomahawk, a low-altitude missile, and a drone named for an Indian chief, Gray Eagle. Operation Geronimo was the end of Osama bin Laden.

Joyner starts from the same default position that I do; that naming a war craft after someone is not an insult, but an honor. However, Waxman takes that starting point and twists it in a different direction.

I’ve known for 30 years that we named Army helicopters after Indian tribes. It never once struck me as problematic, much less offensive. Like Daniel Snyder, owner of the Washington Redskins, it’s always seemed obvious that the names were intended to honor rather than demean. Indeed, Waxman concedes that it’s so. Alas, he argues,

Why do we name our battles and weapons after people we have vanquished? For the same reason the Washington team is the Redskins and my hometown Red Sox go to Cleveland to play the Indians and to Atlanta to play the Braves: because the myth of the worthy native adversary is more palatable than the reality — the conquered tribes of this land were not rivals but victims, cheated and impossibly outgunned…

It is worse than denial; it is propaganda. The message carried by the word Apache emblazoned on one of history’s great fighting machines is that the Americans overcame an opponent so powerful and true that we are proud to adopt its name. They tested our mettle, and we proved stronger, so don’t mess with us.

I’m sorry, but this seems like utter nonsense. When we named one of our most recent aircraft carriers the George H. W. Bush, were we seeking to demean and insult the former President? When we name our nuclear submarines (and formerly battleships) after states, are we saying they are terrible places to live? (Okay.. in the case of the USS Illinois you may have a point.)

I believe the military maintains a long held respect for the Amerindian nations we faced in battle in the nation’s early days. Massively outgunned in terms of weapons and other technology, many of them fought fiercely and achieved legendary status. The Army has a long tradition of paying respect to those who have fought valiantly and honorably against us.

And further, it’s not as if these are derogatory names… they are the actual names of the tribes as translated into English. I can, to a point, understand that the term “redskin” is described as a pejorative, so there will be people who have a problem with it. But Iroquois is a nation. You can imagine that we might decide to name a class of aircraft “The Irish” but we wouldn’t call them the drunken paddies. We don’t tend to name a lot of things after African tribes, but I can’t imagine people being offended by using The Tzambaro for a class of jet fighters, while we wouldn’t consider slapping the n-word on them.

Accusing the Army of being insulting to the native tribes through the naming of helicopters looks like a case of Waxman digging too hard to find something to complain about. And as Joyner points out in an update, the tribes don’t seem that upset either.

Wafts of the earthy aroma of wild sage filled the air as Oglala Medicine Man Roy Stone offered a prayer, blessed the South Dakota National Guards newest aircraft, the UH-72A Lakota Light Utility Helicopter, then tied an eagle feather onto it.

Native American Veterans groups from across the state stood sentry as more than 600 people watched the dedication ceremony that was held in sacred He Sapa (Black Hills) with the image of Crazy Horse one of greatest Lakota warriors to ever walk Ina Maka (Mother Earth) as a backdrop.

During the ceremony the new Delta Company, 1/112th Aviation Company of the National Guard unveiled an official patch that also honors the heritage of South Dakota Native people.

That seems to be the point, guys.


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And by the way, I am a native American since I was born in New York. (That’s what “native” means.) Like the junior Senator from Massachusetts, I always check “Native American” on all forms and applications. Hoka hey.

“Native American” is as useless as a label as any other PC tag. At least it’s not offensive, like “Lesbian” which refers to an actual island in the Aegean. Nobody asked the Orthodox fishermen and olive growers of Lesbos whether they are honored that a major world language considers them as the correct name for female homosexuals. To experience how they feel, try switching out the location and imagine the outrage:

My sister is sexually attracted to other women. I guess that makes her an Arab.

spiritof61 on June 29, 2014 at 2:57 PM

BobMbx on June 29, 2014 at 11:27 AM

OK, let us test the theory: Ft Bragg, Ft Polk, Ft Rucker, Ft Gordon, Ft Hood, Ft Lee, Ft Benning, and Ft A.P Hill.

F X Muldoon on June 29, 2014 at 2:59 PM

And by the way, I am a native American since I was born in New York. (That’s what “native” means.) Like the junior Senator from Massachusetts, I always check “Native American” on all forms and applications…………………….

spiritof61 on June 29, 2014 at 2:57 PM

…thank you for that idea!….I have always checked ‘Other’…or if available ‘Do not wish to disclose’…I like that!…I was born in Michigan…so I AM a Native!

JugEarsButtHurt on June 29, 2014 at 3:11 PM

How DARE they call Notre Dame the Fighting Irish?!?!11

John the Libertarian on June 29, 2014 at 3:11 PM

my grandfather was a Houlehan so
I have always supported..

Notre Dame the Drunken Irish Micks..

or maybe

Notre Dame the Mighty Sheep Herders..
come for the football stay for the wool…

going2mars on June 29, 2014 at 3:22 PM

Linh_My on June 29, 2014 at 2:37 PM

Thank-you

Who else will stand as a Soldier. Start by saying it her “I Am A Soldier”
Our country is in trouble, she needs us one more time.
I am a Soldier.

jpcpt03 on June 29, 2014 at 3:24 PM

Isn’t it fascinating that Native American warrior names are just awesome unless the epidermis is mentioned?

BigAlSouth on June 29, 2014 at 3:26 PM

The letter Z in the phonetic alphabet is represented by the Word Zulu.

The alphabet is racist, and so is everyone who uses it.

malclave on June 29, 2014 at 3:58 PM

Amerindian

Seems like aboriginal American is a more correct name.

itsnotaboutme on June 29, 2014 at 4:18 PM

ZeusGoose on June 29, 2014 at 1:05 PM

You’re right about the F-105 and wrong about the B-52: I was there, and it was definitely ‘BUF’, standing (approximately) for ‘Big Ugly Fornicator’. The Air Force – a remarkably prissy organization – has been trying to convince people that crew dogs don’t talk dirty ever since.

PersonFromPorlock on June 29, 2014 at 4:56 PM

Amerindian

Seems like aboriginal American is a more correct name.

itsnotaboutme on June 29, 2014 at 4:18 PM

‘Amerindian’ and ‘Amerind’ have been used by anthropologists for a very long time.

PersonFromPorlock on June 29, 2014 at 4:58 PM

Amerindian

Seems like aboriginal American is a more correct name.

itsnotaboutme on June 29, 2014 at 4:18 PM

While renewing my membership at The Cherokee National Historical Society in Tahlequah earlier this year, the head archivist mentioned that the preferred term is “American Indian.”

Also note my great Grand Uncle Matt Daugherty is listed in the 1st Regiment Choctaw and Chickasaw Mounted Rifles C.S.A muster roll.

Linh_My on June 29, 2014 at 5:06 PM

The Natives have a lot more bigger problems to correct first before they get their knickers in a knot over the name of a football team. They should try getting rid of alcoholism, spouse and child abuse number one. Then they could work toward greater education of the youth and being able to provide for jobs for their future. If they want to maintain their distance from the ‘white’ culture and keep their own, fine, but don’t complain about the crappy conditions on the rez unless you’re working to change it for the better.

Kissmygrits on June 29, 2014 at 5:31 PM

Refer to the Dem libs to see if you ought to be offended. They’ll be glad to let you know.

oakland on June 29, 2014 at 5:34 PM

<blockquoteThe Natives have a lot more bigger problems to correct first before they get their knickers in a knot over the name of a football team. They should try getting rid of alcoholism, spouse and child abuse number one. Then they could work toward greater education of the youth and being able to provide for jobs for their future. If they want to maintain their distance from the ‘white’ culture and keep their own, fine, but don’t complain about the crappy conditions on the rez unless you’re working to change it for the better.

Kissmygrits on June 29, 2014 at 5:31 PM

Actually, most of the outrage seems to be coming from WHITE Liberals.

Linh_My on June 29, 2014 at 5:35 PM

Amerindian

This may or may not be a word, but it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. What is wrong with American Indian or better yet, just Indian? Amerindian sounds way too contrived.

Theophile on June 29, 2014 at 5:49 PM

PersonFromPorlock on June 29, 2014 at 4:56 PM

Big
Ugly
Fat
F***er
(BUFF) is what the people who worked on them told me. worked with a few buff and bone mechanics at airline.
really not much difference between buf and buff.

dmacleo on June 29, 2014 at 6:08 PM

because the myth of the worthy native adversary is more palatable than the reality — the conquered tribes of this land were not rivals but victims, cheated and impossibly outgunned…

How’s that for a nuanced understanding of American history? This false narrative needs to be challenged wherever it pops up. Simon Waxman should google Frederick Wyllyams for a better understanding of why people people in the West and South West were scared spitess about the potential of Indian massacres.

The message carried by the word Apache emblazoned on one of history’s great fighting machines is that the Americans overcame an opponent so powerful and true that we are proud to adopt its name. They tested our mettle, and we proved stronger, so don’t mess with us.

Did it ever occur to him that there may be Americans with Native-American blood who serve in the military?
I can’t stand these people. I’ve come to the conclusion that they need to be called ignorant bullies to their face, social etiquette be damned.

V7_Sport on June 29, 2014 at 6:17 PM

This may or may not be a word, but it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. What is wrong with American Indian or better yet, just Indian? Amerindian sounds way too contrived.

Theophile on June 29, 2014 at 5:49 PM

Plain ‘Indian’ leaves us with no word to describe those other Indians. And ‘American Indian’ is just too long, as well as inaccurate since the people we’re talking about are linked to ‘real’ Indians only because early European explorers were confused about where they were.

‘Amerind’ and ‘Amerindian’ are compact, connotation-free terms which have been used by anthropologists since the turn of the last century. They may be unfamiliar to you, but they’re hardly neologisms.

PersonFromPorlock on June 29, 2014 at 6:21 PM

I think the Navy even honors outright defeats by foreign powers: USS Savo Island, USS Bataan. Can you imagine a French warship named after the Battle of Waterloo?
spiritof61 on June 29, 2014 at 11:25 AM

Yes. Savo Island is the most war-gamed battle at the War College and it was probably the worst defeat in a fair fight the Navy ever had. There is a carefully preserved, charred windowsill at the White House, it’s kept in it’s blackened state as a reminder that the Executive Mansion was once burned down by an attacking army. (There are vital messages from the past in remembering our defeats, Pearl Harbor was supposed to teach us to be vigilant, it took 60 years to get to 9/11 and yet we as a country have already hit the snooze alarm.)

There are literally thousands of examples of the military honoring the country’s Indian heritage as a nod to our past.

I really want to give this Simon Waxman a pie in the face for being such a clown.

V7_Sport on June 29, 2014 at 6:38 PM

People who allow themselves to be offended by words are weak losers who get no pity from me. PC jumped the shark a long time ago and seems to be losing its appeal with the masses with each ridiculous fake offense.

Ellis on June 29, 2014 at 7:24 PM

Seems like aboriginal American is a more correct name.

itsnotaboutme on June 29, 2014 at 4:18 PM

In the spirit of “Euro-American” and “African-American” where it isn’t good enough if your family has been here for centuries, I recommend Siberian-American so as not to upset the billion plus people living in the Asian sub-continent by calling those who came here via the Bering Straight “Indians”.

Reuben Hick on June 29, 2014 at 7:26 PM

Taking the Waxman rule to its logical conclusion, we need to rename the Dakotas, Sioux City, and all other place-names that came from native American origins. Naming the giant redwoods ‘Sequoias’ is an obvious affront.

Even if you take the position that a name honours one tribe or person, the result is that it elevates those over lesser-known tribes or persons, and thus demeans them, according to the Waxman rule.

In our PC world, where everyone needs to get a trophy to protect their fragile little self-esteems, we have to either honour everybody, or nobody. So let’s just honour nobody. It will be a lot less expensive, and we need to consider the budget deficit.

Congress and the President need to lead the way by ending all Congressional Medal of Honour and Presidential Medal of Freedom awards.

Last but certainly not least, get all those Post Offices renamed that were named after Congressmen and Senators. Maybe we should do this one first. Especially if there are any named after Waxman.

s1im on June 29, 2014 at 8:29 PM

Sine we are into renaming native American slur names, lets rename Indiana to Armpitia. Indianapolis can be renamed armpitopolis

paulsur on June 29, 2014 at 10:55 PM

Henceforth all Army choppers will have the generic name HEBITRO PAFAIRBI with the number designatng the aircraft type.

Ex HEBITRO PAFAIRBI 777
HIBITRO PAFAIRBI 785

All government departments love acronyms so it’s from HEAP BIG TROUBLE
PALE FACE IRON BIRDS.

MaiDee on June 29, 2014 at 11:16 PM

The word Redskin is entirely different than the word Braves, Indians, or the individual tribe names.

Anyone that tries to equate it is an imbecile.

ButterflyDragon on June 30, 2014 at 4:05 AM

So other than the helicopters that should not be named, suppose I get caught in the rain? Do I have to tell people who ask that I have an “un-dry back”?

This is just so ridiculous.

I also still have an old “Beaners” travel mug. Should I turn myself in?

rightConcept on June 30, 2014 at 10:40 AM

Stick it to them, name the next new helo the Clovis – after the extinct ACTUAL Native North Americans, as opposed to the First Immigrants who claim that moniker these days. Love to see some Leftoid try and claim Clovis offended any living being.

PJ Emeritus on June 30, 2014 at 11:48 AM

I guess the USAF Thunderbirds will have to drop their name as well, and of course their logo which is an adaptation of the indian ‘Thunderbird’. :-/

DonB on June 30, 2014 at 6:05 PM

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