is one of the most famous Apache Indian Chiefs that ever
lived. The Indian warrior and his 37 followers were able
to defy federal authority for over 25 years. He is said
to have magical powers and that he could walk without creating
footprints. Whatever the case, his story is one worth reading.
Geronimo, who’s real name Goyathlay
means "the one who yawns", was born in 1829 in
what is today western New Mexico. He was a Bedonkohe Apache
by birth and a Net’na during his youth and early manhood.
His name was apparently given to him by Mexican soldiers
who were victims of his frequent raids. Geronimo means "Jerome"
in Spanish. Geronimo was not a hereditary leader, but was
the spokesman for his brother in law, Juh, and a medicine
man. Juh was a Chiricahua Chief who had a speech impediment.
Over the years Geronimo earned
a reputation as the most famous Apache of all because he
held out the longest and fought against such daunting odds.
He inspired fear in the early settlers of Arizona and New
Mexico. His true hatred for the white man came when he arrived
home from a trading excursion in Mexico to find his wife,
three children and mother murdered by Spanish Troops from
Mexico. From that point on he was determined to kill every
white man he could find.
The Chiricahua’s were forced
to move to what is now the San Carlos Indian Reservation
in 1876, but Geronimo escaped with a band of followers into
Mexico. Soon after, he was arrested and brought back to
the reservation where he lived quietly with Juh until the
slaying of an Apache prophet in 1881. From that point on,
Geronimo was on the run fighting against the white man.
Lieutenant Colonel George F.
Crook, commander of the Department of Arizona, cornered
Geronimo in January 1884, but Geronimo escaped again in
May 1885 accompanied by 35 men, 8 boys, and 101 women. Ten
months later with Crook in pursuit, Geronimo was again captured
in Sonora, Mexico. As he was being brought back into the
United States, Geronimo again escaped, fearing for his life.
He retreated into the mountains of Sonora, Mexico.
Due to Crook’s failure, he
was replaced by Brigadier General Nelson A. Miles who lead
a campaign of 5000 white soldiers and 500 Indian auxillaries
in the pursuit of Geronimo and his followers. It took five
months and 1645 miles to track Geronimo’s camp in the Sonora
Mountains of Mexico. Miles called a conference with Geronimo
and promised him that he would be able to return to Arizona
after a temporary exile in Florida. The promise was never
kept. "The soldiers never explained to the government
when an Indian was wronged, but reported the misdeeds of
the Indians; We took an oath not to do any wrong to each
other or to scheme against each other.," said Geronimo.
Geronimo and 450 Apache men,
women and children were transported to Florida for a stay
in Forts Marion and Pickens. It was there they stayed until
1894 when they were moved to Fort Sill, Oklahoma. Geronimo
then became a rancher and was later allowed by the United
States government to sell photographs and memorabilia of
himself at expositions. Geronimo joined the Dutch reform
church and was quoted saying ," I cannot think that
we are useless or God would not have created us; There is
one God looking down on us all; We are all the children
of one God; The sun, the darkness, the winds are all listening
to what we have to say. " He was later kicked out the
church because he could not stop gambling. Geronimo even
rode in President Theodore Roosevelt’s 1905 inaugural parade.
On February 17, 1909, Geronimo
died a prisoner of war, never able to return to his homeland
of Arizona. He was buried in the Apache cemetery in Fort
Sill, Oklahoma. Just before he died, he dictated his autobiography
to S.S. Barett entitled, "Geronimo: His Own Story."