Army Helicopters and Indian Tribe Names

By | June 19, 2014

[June 19, 2014] As I buckled myself into the helicopter’s backseat, I joked with the young Blackhawk pilot that I probably had more hours flying in his US-60 aircraft than he did. We were flying low and fast over the city of Baghdad. That tactic got us to our destination faster and helped avoid anti-aircraft missiles. Most people don’t know that U.S. Army helicopters and Indian tribe names have been associated with one another for a long time.


Source: Public domain photo by Edward Curtis

Typically, U.S. Army helicopters are named after Indian tribes, chiefs, or terms since 1969. Based on a list of possible names obtained from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the names are picked for the sound, history, and relationship of the name to the mission of the aircraft. This suggests an aggressive spirit and confidence in the capabilities of the aircraft1,2. The names are also chosen have to appeal to the imagination. The Indian tribe names suggest an aggressive spirit and confidence in the capabilities of the aircraft. They also suggest mobility, firepower, and endurance. Of course, these are only a few reasons for naming helicopters after Indian tribes.

In short, the U.S. Army did so because of the quality of character and fighting spirit of American Indians.

Yet, this is not a view held by some3,4,5. The use of Indian names as well as images in sports has been a topic of debate since the 1960s. It is a belief that the use of native names or symbols by non-native teams is a form of ethnic stereotyping that should be stopped.

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