Geronimo or Goyathlay (“ one who yawns”) lived from 1829 to 1909. He was one of the most important and prominent native American leaders of the time. He wrought fear in the hearts of Americans and Mexicans with his great leadership, courage and deadly skills as a warrior, the aspects of Apache values.
He was believed to be impervious to bullets because of supernatural beings granting him their powers so, he had a certain tenacity on the battlefield combined with his courage and aggressiveness made him a nightmare to see on the battlefield. He became infamous for being an extremely deadly murderer so Americans and Mexicans gave him the name Geronimo (meaning “ Jerome” in Spanish).
Geronimo was born into the Bedonkohe Apache tribe in June of 1829 . In 1846, when he was the age of 17, he joined the Council of the Warriors, which gave him the right to marry. Soon, he was granted permission; married Alope, and they had 3 kids.
In the middle of the 1850s, they were peaceful with the Mexican towns and nearby Indian tribes. So, they traveled into Old Mexico unheeded where they could trade. Setting up camp outside a town in Mexico the Apache called Kas-ki-yeh, they lingered for several days. Having left a few warriors to defend the camp in case of attack, the remainder of the men traveled into Kas-ki-yeh to trade. As they returned from town, they were intercepted by several children and women who said that Mexican troops had ambushed the camp.
They came back to camp to see their stationed guards dead, and all of their supplies and arms, stolen. Also, many of the women and young children had been murdered as well. Included in those dead were Geronimo′s wife Alope, mom, and 3 kids and as a result, he despised all Mexicans for the remainder of his lifetime.
Soon, he joined a fierce band of Apache known as the Nedhni band of Chiricahua and with them, took part in many raids and attacks in Northern Mexico and over the border into US lands. It was those Mexican enemies that appointed him the name of “ Geronimo”.
As they began to populate most of the Apache′s land, Geronimo fought against both Mexicans and American colonists. Although, by the early 1870s, Lieutenant Colonel George F. Crook, commander of the Department of Arizona, had succeeded in establishing a sort of peace in the territory. The choices of his successors, however, were horrible.
During 1876, the US government tried to move the Chiricahua from their traditional homelands to the San Carlos Reservation, a wasteland devoid of life in Arizona. Short on rations, homesick, and without their traditions, they revolted.
A revolution ignited by Geronimo, hundreds of Apaches left the reservation and fled into Mexico, soon rekindling their war against the whites.Geronimo and his fellow Apaches continued on for ten years, their intermittent raids against white settlements.
1882, General George Crook was sent into Arizona to start a counterattack against the Apache. Geronimo surrendered January 1884, but, sparked by rumors of inevitable trials and hangings, fled from the San Carlos Reservation on May 17, 1885, accompanied by 35 warriors, and 109 other Apaches.
During his final expedition, more than 5, 000 white soldiers and 500 Native American people were used at various points in time in the capture of Geronimo’s small band. 5 months and 1, 645 miles later, Geronimo was found in his camp in Mexico’s Sonora Mountains.
Tired, and hopelessly outnumbered, Geronimo surrendered on March 27, 1886 in Sonora, Mexico. His band was filled with a few warriors, women, and children. Among them was a young white boy named Jimmy “ Santiago” McKinn, that the Indians had kidnapped around six months before in September. The “ rescued” young boy was so used to the Apache lifestyle that he was sad when he was forced to revert back to his old way of life.
The soldiers culminated the group and began the journey to Fort Bowie, Arizona. However, near the border, Geronimo, fearing that they would be killed once they went into U. S. territory, fled with Chief Naiche, eleven warriors, and a handful of women and boys, who were able to flee back into the Sierra Madra. As a direct result, Brigadier General Nelson A. Miles succeeded Crook as commander on April 2, 1886.
At a meeting on September 3, 1886, in Arizona, General Miles made Geronimo surrender again, promising him after an indefinite banishment to Florida, he and his fellow Apaches would be allowed to return to Arizona. But the promise was never kept. They were shipped by box-car to Florida for imprisonment and put to hard labor.
It was as late as May 1887 before he saw his family. Almost a decade later, in 1894, he was transported to Fort Sill in Oklahoma Territory where he tried to “ fit in. â€ He farmed and joined the Dutch Reformed Church, which expelled him because of his inability to resist gambling.
As the years passed, tales of Geronimo’s warrior ferocity made him into a legend that fascinated non-Indians and Indians alike. As a result, he appeared at numerous fairs, selling souvenirs and photographs of himself. In 1905 he was quite the attraction when he appeared in President Theodore Roosevelt’s inaugural parade.
Never having seen his homeland of Arizona again, Geronimo died of pneumonia on February 17, 1909 and was buried in the Apache cemetery at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.
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