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Native Americans ask Apache Foundation to change name

Many products and projects use Native American iconography and names. The Apache Software Foundation is now changing its name.

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The nonprofit initiative Natives in Tech has called on the Apache Software Foundation (ASF) to change its name, The Register reports. Among other things, the demand refers directly to ASF’s Code of Conduct, or self-imposed rules for collaboration, which states, “Be judicious with the words we choose.” In terms of the name, that didn’t happen, according to the Natives in Tech initiative.

The blog post states, “It is not uncommon to learn about non-Indigenous entities appropriating Indigenous culture but none of them are as large, prestigious, nor well-known as The Apache® Software Foundation is in software circles.” This may not be an exaggeration; after all, the namesake Apache Web server is still considered one of the most widely used of its kind. In addition, the ASF itself now comprises more than 350 projects and initiatives, in whose communities, according to the ASF, more than 640,000 people are active.

ASF’s founder is directly criticized

apache logo
Apache Software Foundation Logo

The initiative takes special offense not only at the principle of cultural appropriation by the ASF, which is reflected, for example, in the logo with the feather, but above all at the handling of the name as well as the description of the name choice. ASF founder Brian Behlendorf, for example, is accused of having a romanticized image from “spaghetti westerns” that describes a “lively and vibrant community as dead and gone.”

The initiative writes: “Indigenous erasure is the systematic process of opposing, removing, re-framing, and undermining Indigenous presence, past and present, within the broader historical narrative from which they originated and continue to exist.” Accordingly, Behlendorf and the ASF contribute directly to this process.

In addition, concerning its trademark on the word “Apache,” the ASF argues that there has been no legal challenge to this to date. “This assumes that any of the eight Apache nations will want to give legitimacy to the Apache Software Foundation’s trademark claim, especially in a court system that has historically ruled against the sovereignty of indigenous peoples.”

In the past, numerous products in the U.S., and sports clubs in particular, have used Native American names and iconography. Many of those responsible, particularly in recent years, have distanced themselves from this, changing their names and logos, for example.

A spokesperson for the ASF told The Register magazine, “We hear the concerns of Native Americans and are listening to them.” As a nonprofit organization run by volunteers, the changes must be carefully considered with the members, the board, and our legal team. “Our members are looking at alternative ways to address the issue, but we can’t say anything at this time.”