Apache Foundation faces name opposition from American Indian activists.
The group, Natives in Tech, is calling on the Apache Foundation to change its name.
I didn't see this coming. But, then, I'm a baby boomer white guy, so I was born with blinders on. So, I didn't see Natives in Tech's protest against the Apache Software Foundation's (ASF) name coming. I get it now.
According to Natives in Tech members Adam Recvlohe, Holly Grimm, and Desiree Kane, the ASF appropriated indigenous culture for branding purposes by using the name Apache.
In particular, this naming "threatens critical rights around Indigenous sovereignty, self-determination, and respect."
Personally, I'd always thought that the name had little to do with the Apache tribes and everything to do with a joke. That shows how much I know. The story, as I heard it, was that since the "Apache HTTP Server grew from patches applied to the NCSA Server, a pun on the name quickly spread amongst members of the community, with the rumor being that 'Apache' actually stood for 'a ‘patchy’ server.'"
The reality is that the name came from the Apache people. Co-founder Brian Behlendorf explained, in the 2020 ASF documentary “Trillions and Trillions Served,” the “Apache” was chosen out of reverence and appreciation for the people and tribes who refer to themselves as 'Apache.'"
But, while Behlendorf said in 2020 they hadn't meant to be a "cultural appropriator," the Native in Tech thinks that's exactly what the ASF did.
They wrote, it was based on a "frankly outdated spaghetti-Western “romantic” presentation of a living and vibrant community as dead and gone in order to build a technology company 'for the greater good” is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.'"
Therefore, Natives in Tech urges "The Apache Software Foundation to take the necessary steps needed to express the ally-ship they promote so deeply on their website, to act in accordance with their own code of conduct, to “be careful in the words that [they] choose,” and change their name."
I see the Natives in Tech's point. The ASF, besides using the name for its organization, first used the name for the popular open-source web server, Apache HTTP Server. It also uses the name for its widely used Apache License. Today, in technical circles, when you say "Apache," people think of the organization, software, and license. Not the "8 federally recognized tribes that carry on the Apache name and represent thousands and thousands of living, breathing people."
As the group pointed out, "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." The Apache tribes have a romantic history, but they live, work, and create their own history today.
Since I know many of Behlendorf and the other original Apache project founders, I'm sure they never meant to offend anyone. On the ASF site, it states they've been asked about the use of the “Apache” name, and in the" twenty-five years of use of 'Apache' as part of its name, the ASF has never been involved in any legal dispute with Native American communities or any other party in relation to the use of the 'Apache' name."
That was then. This is now. While Natives in Tech aren't threatening legal action, they have raised a serious concern.
In the United States, we're still ridding ourselves of completely offensive indigenous names. For example, the Washington Redskins NFL team, which only rebranded as the Commanders in 2022, and the Cleveland Indians MLB team, with its racist Chief Wahoo logo, only got rid of it in 2018 and changed its name to the Cleveland Guardians in 2022.
The ASF name certainly doesn't rise to that level of offensiveness. But, the name has become troublesome. When I asked the ASF about it, a representative told me, "We hear the concerns from the Native American people and are listening. As a non-profit run by volunteers, changes will need time to be carefully weighed with members, the board, and our legal team. Our members are exploring alternative ways to address it, but we don’t have anything to share at this time."
What will happen next? I don't know. I'm sure that the ASF takes the Natives in Tech concerns seriously. It won't surprise me at all if the ASF changes its name, or perhaps comes to an agreement with the Apache tribes for a more appropriate use of their tribal name.
Other noteworthy Linux and open-source stories: