Apaches and Tomahawks

Grant Barrett gbarrett at AMERICANDIALECT.ORG
Wed May 12 20:39:25 UTC 1999

Nancy Dolhem writes for Le Monde Diplomatique about the curiousness of
naming weapons after exterminated American Indian tribes. There's room here
for development, I think, of how words like "Apache" still carry the power
and the threat and the charge that they did, but now for different

>From http://www.monde-diplomatique.fr/en/1999/05/02dolhem.html

Apaches and Tomahawks

Is it cynicism? Amnesia? Or have the Americans just not stopped to
reflect that the arms they are now using to attack the Serb regime with its
odious ethnic cleansing are named after the Indians they exterminated last

Think of Tomahawk missiles and Apache helicopters. The tomahawk was the
Indians' axe and the Apaches were, as the Sioux and the Cheyenne, victims
of appalling ethnic cleansing.

This is what Major Wynkoop wrote in his report of the inquiry into the
extermination of a camp of Indians by the First Cavalry Company of Colorado:
"Women and children were killed and scalped, babies killed at their
mothers' breasts, and all the corpses were most horribly mutilated. … The
women's corpses were profaned in a way that makes you sick in the telling, and
throughout, Colonel Chivington was inciting his troops to commit their
diabolical outrages."

There was a small child, his report went on, probably three years old,
just old enough to walk in the sand. The Indians had fled and the child was
trying to reach them. He was stark naked, just walking in the sand.
Wynkoop saw a man dismount at about 80 yards, lift his gun and shoot. He missed.
Another man arrived and said he could "get the bastard". He dismounted,
knelt down and fired. He also missed. A third man said the same, then
fired. The child fell.

What would we say in 50 years or so if the Serbian armed forces decided
to name one of their missiles "Kosovar"?

Nancy Dolhem

(1) Helen Jackson (1830-85), A century of dishonour: a sketch of the
United States government's dealings with some of the Indian tribes, Norman,
London, 1995.

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