Geronimo was a Bedonkohe [Chiricahua] Apache who lived in the "Southern Four Corners" region (southeastern Arizona, southwestern New Mexico, northwestern Chihuahua, northeastern Sonora) during the late 1800's. Born in the 1820's, scholars disagree on whether his birthplace was actually in Arizona or New Mexico. His original name "Goyakla," or "one who yawns," was replaced with "Geronimo" by Mexican soldiers.
By the 1850's Geronimo was married with three children and also supporting his widowed mother. The entire Bedonkohe group went to Mexico in the summer of 1858 to trade with the Mexicans living in a town Apache's called Kas-ki-yeh (probably Janos). After their camp was established, the women and children remained behind while a group of men went into town to trade. On the third day, the men returned to the camp to discover that a band of Mexican soldiers from another town had come and massacred many people, mostly women and children. Among the dead were Geronimo's mother, wife, and children. From that day, he vowed vengeance upon the Mexican troopers. He became a War Chief, leading the Chiricahua Apache in raids on Mexican towns and villages as well as attacking people throughout southern Arizona and New Mexico.
Some people give Geronimo the distinction of being the last Indian to surrender to the United States but actually he surrendered several times. In 1884, Geronimo, the Bedonkohe tribe, and members of other Apache groups surrendered and were taken to the San Carlos Indian Reservation. In 1885, he and 144 others escaped from the reservation, but surrendered to U.S. authorities ten months later in Mexico. As they were brought back across the United States-Mexico border, however, Geronimo and a small band escaped fearing they would be murdered. This band remained at large for the next five months despite being hunted by 5,500 men in a sweeping search that ranged over 1645 miles.
The negotiations for Geronimo's final surrender took place in Skeleton Canyon, near present day Douglas, Arizona, in September, 1886. He and approximately 40 others, as well as Western Apache scouts who had faithfully served the U.S. military in tracking Geronimo's band, were taken into custody. General Nelson A. Miles promised that they would be able to return to Arizona after a short incarceration in Florida.
The group was sent by train to Florida where they were detained for a year at Fort Pickens and their families at Fort Marion. The warriors were reunited with their families the following year at Mount Vernon, Alabama. The entire group was moved to Fort Sill, Oklahoma in 1894, still classified as "prisoners of war". Geronimo lived at Fort Sill until his death, in 1909, at the age of 85. During his later life Geronimo was a celebrity. He made appearances at the 1898 Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition, the 1901 Pan American Exposition, and the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition and was often presented as the "Apache terror." He was also given the honor of riding in Theodore Roosevelt's inaugural parade after which he was given a personal audience with the President. Although he pled "Let me die in my own country, an old man who has been punished enough and is free," he was never allowed to return to Arizona.
To Learn More About Geronimo:
Adams, Alexander B. Geronimo: A Biography. New York: Putnam, 1971.
Barrett, S.M. Geronimo's Story of His Life. New York: Duffield & Co., 1907.
Debo, Angie. Geronimo: The Man, His Time, His Place. (The Civilization of the American Indian Series; 142). Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1989.
Shorto, Russell and L.L. Cundiff. Geronimo and the Struggle for Apache Freedom. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Silver Burdett Press, 1989.
Syme, Ronald. Geronimo: The Fighting Apache. New York: William Morrow & C., 1975.
American Indian Heritage Association's Geronimo Page: http://www.indians.org/welker/geronimo.htm
Geronimo, in Sierra Madre mountains, 1886. Photographer C. S. Fly. (ASM Neg. 8164).
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