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Native tech group requests name change for Apache Foundation

Due in part to the foundation’s own code of conduct, an organisation representing indigenous people in technology has asked the Apache Software Foundation to alter its name.

Many groups have taken indigenous culture, but “none of them are as huge, prominent, or well-known as The Apache Software Foundation is in software circles,” a blog post by the nonprofit Natives in Tech claims. The group objects to the Foundation’s feather emblem and its professed “reverence and respect” for a single, broadly characterised “Apache” identity, as well as Brian Behlendorf’s justification for suggesting the name and the “Spaghetti Western” clichés it evokes.

According to the documentary “Trillions and Trillions Served,” which Behlendorf is funding himself in2020, “New HTTPd” and the “Cyber-this or Spider-that” naming conventions of the time didn’t inspire him, so he went looking for something more creative.

I was like, maybe something a little bit more interesting, a little bit more romantic, and—not to be a cultural appropriator or anything like that—but I’d just seen a documentary about Geronimo and kind of the last days of the Native American tribe called the Apaches, right? Who succumbed to the invasion from the West, from the United States, and they were the last tribe to give up their territory.

And for me, that almost romantically represented what I felt we were doing with this web server project, which was, at the time, Microsoft owned 95 percent of the desktops; all they had to do was come up with a browser and a server, and if they owned both links, it was kind of game over.

Specifically, Adam Recvlohe, Holly Grimm, and Desiree Kane of Natives in Tech wrote in a post that Behlendorf’s “frankly outdated spaghetti-Western ‘romantic’ presentation of a living and vibrant community as dead and gone in order to build a technology company ‘for the greater good’ is as ignorant as it is offensive.” They urge the Foundation to “take the appropriate steps needed to communicate the ally-ship they espouse so profoundly on their website” and to “be careful in the words [they] pick” in any name change in accordance with the Foundation’s code of conduct.

Following the request for a name change from the organisation, the Foundation sent a comment to The Register via email. A Foundation representative acknowledged in an email that the organisation is aware of the issues raised. “Volunteers operate our organisation, thus any proposed changes will need to be discussed extensively with members, the board, and our legal staff before being implemented. We don’t have any news to report at this moment, but our members are looking into other options for dealing with it “according to what the spokesman had to say in writing.

There appears to have been at least some degree of overlap in the thought behind the name “Apache,” as evidenced by a number of online sites around the period of the project’s inception that are now accessible primarily through the Internet Archive (and collated on Wikipedia): Their first web server was based on the NCSA HTTPd server with a few modifications. As Behlendorf told Linux Magazine in April 2000, “others in the group believed the name was a pun on a patchy web server.” However, Behlendorf argued that the pun wasn’t intended. “Take no prisoners was the implication, I guess. Exert some aggressiveness and give certain people the boot “… he made the following statement.

At issue for Natives in Tech is the myth of the Apache as a unique, vanished people group that fought valiantly against a conquering enemy. They point out that there are eight federally recognised tribes whose names include “Apache,” totaling “thousands and thousands of living, breathing people,” and that the stereotype of a “pure, reverent, and simple” indigenous person (i.e., a “noble savage”) “distances Indigenous people from modern technology, the very thing the [Apache] foundation represents,” as stated by Natives in Tech.

Names having indigenous origins have been under scrutiny for some time, but this scrutiny has gained traction in recent years. This time last year, the Cherokee Nation officially requested that Jeep rebrand its Cherokee and Grand Cherokee SUVs under a new moniker. Cleveland and Washington, DC both recently changed the names and logos of their professional sports clubs over fierce opposition.