He was born a Bendokohe Apache in or around 1829, but seventeen years later he married into the Chiricahua band (Native tribes were often opposite of us, maternal, rather than paternal in heritage). He had three brothers and four sisters.
Geronimo's war against the Mexicans began the day in 1858 when he came home to find his family brutally murdered, including his three children. The men had been on a trade trip, so those murdered were mostly women and children. He discovered that this raid had been led by Colonel Jose Maria Carrasco, of the Spanish-Mexican army. With his chief's urging, he went to Cochise and requested his people's help exacting vengeance against the perpetrators of this heinous crime.
Raids commenced between the Mexicans and the Apache for many years until a peace treaty was arranged in 1873. In celebration of the treaty, the Mexicans passed around liquor, intoxicating the Apaches. While they were drunk, the Mexicans attacked. Twenty Apache were killed, the survivors having to make a run for it. The skirmishes continued, with both sides visiting horrific acts upon the opposite side. At this time, the Apache were also raiding into settlements on the U.S. side, drawing the ire of the U.S. government, as well.
Geronimo managed to evade the U.S. military until 1886, for the most part. He had escaped several reservations by this time, and led many bands of fellow escapees/survivors to places of safety. In 1886, though, his followers were few, their numbers having dwindled, and he was taken in with 16 men, 12 women and 6 children. The official surrender was processed on September 4, 1886, in Skeleton Canyon, Arizona.
Geronimo and his people, including those who had helped track him, were moved around from base to base for many years, finally ending up at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. Many died of disease and ill health, including tuberculosis, during this time. He survived for some time and became a celebrity, of sorts, having been famous for being a ghost in the mountains while two sides hunted him. He appeared at the 1904 World's Fair, as well as the 1905 parade in honor of Theodore Roosevelt's inauguration.
After having lived a life made up of war, more than peace, Geronimo died of pneumonia in 1909, a prisoner of war. His grave is located at Fort Sill.
1. In his lifetime, Geronimo took eight wives and had at least six children.
2. There is a cave called Geronimo's Cave, into which he escaped and never came back out. It is believed there is another exit from the cave, but it has not been found to this day.
3. Geronimo's story was published as Geronimo's Story of His Life, written down by S.M. Barrett, who was able to interview Geronimo in 1905. It was less an interview than Geronimo talking and Barrett writing down notes as fast as he could.
4. One of the reservations Geronimo was briefly on was referred to as "Hell's Forty Acres." It was barren, and they had no way to support themselves or grow food. This was the first of many reservations the government attempted to put the Apache on.
5. Geronimo's final surrender was only done because he was promised that the Apache would be returned to their native lands. Instead, they were put into labor camps and the men were separated from their families. This was not the first treaty with them the whites had broken.
Ever heard of Geronimo? Do you feel that what you'd heard before was accurate?
I hope everyone has a great weekend and a Happy Easter, if you celebrate it!
May you find your Muse.
*Letter G courtesy of divernon24 at clker.com
**Geronimo, 1887, By Ben Wittick ((1845–1903) (ARC Identifier: 530880) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
***Geronimo, 1905, at about 76 years old, Edward S. Curtis [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons