Saturday, April 7, 2012

G is for Great Weekend and Geronimo


You can't talk about the Wild West without touching on Native Americans in history. As far as known Natives, Geronimo may be the best known to modern-day Americans. Though not technically a leader of the Apache (he was not a chief), he became a spokesperson and, later, the leader of a resistance (earning him the title of war chief), the last to give in to the U.S. government. I've seen his true name spelled many different ways (Goyathlay, Goyahkla, Gokliya), but they all mean "One Who Yawns." How he got the name Geronimo has never been established 100%. Some say U.S. soldiers gave him the name; others say it was Mexicans (he was from New Mexico, which was still Mexican Territory at the time). However he came by the name, it has gone down in history with him.

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
**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


Luana Krause said...

Fascinating history of Geronimo. It's funny how his name was used in TV and cartoons. When someone jumped off a cliff or building, they'd shout "Gerinomoooooooo!" I'm Cherokee myself and I enjoy reading Native American history. Great word for "G"!

Gregg Metcalf said...

Love the post. Have always enjoyed info about Geronimo.

Beth Camp said...

Interesting background on Geronimo. I have Native American roots back to Oklahoma, but no one in the family will talk about them. This article summarizes a brutal history, reminding me of how much cultural understanding we have lost.

Unknown said...

Aside from the chant "GERONIMOOOOO" I'd not known anything about him except his name. Thanks for the interesting info :)

Fellow A-Z bloggy buddy
Mithril Wisdom

mshatch said...

I did not know all the details of Geronimo's life but having taken some courses on Native American History I am well acquainted with how they've been screwed royally.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

He actually lived a rather long life for that time.

Gossip_Grl said...

Loved your story on Geronimo.

Unknown said...

Very, very interesting. I actually read a book about Geronimo some years back so I knew a lot about him but this was a great post.

D.G. Hudson said...

Geronimo, of course I know who he is! Thanks for sharing this info. My mother had a little native Indian in her background, and so does hubby.

The US and Canada seem to think it was okay to push these native people to areas they didn't want themselves. It's one of our national embarrassments for both our countries, IMO.

Great post subject!

fidel said...

Interesting read. Do we ever learn from these experiences?

S. L. Hennessy said...

I always thought Geronimo was fascinating. Wrote a paper about him in college. Great post and happy A-Z blogging!

Erin M. Hartshorn said...

Marvelous post! Thanks for all the details about Geronimo. I knew some of this, but far from all.


Sue McPeak said...

Thanks again for a wonderful history lesson from the Southwest. I wrote a paper many years ago on his son and descendants. Lots of interesting research. As with your one a new perspective on the American Indian from school lessons. Well done.

Sue...CollectInTexas Gal

Eliza Wynn said...

Interesting post! I didn't know much about Geronimo.

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Debra Harris-Johnson said...

G is for Great Post. Happy Easter!

Shelly said...


Your theme is really cool.

Happy Easter! Happy Passover!

Cecilia Robert said...

Hey Shannon, I wanted to blog about Geronimo and changed my mind and did Gemini instead..:D
That'S quite alot of info I didn'T know, thanks for sharing. Have a Great Weekend!

Chuck said...

Amazing how long he lived...considering the stress he was under most of the time and the broken promises he endured. Great story.

Maryannwrites said...

I loved this reminder of the great warrior. A long time ago a writer I knew in Dallas wrote a book that was historical fiction and dealt with those last years of Geronimo evading the military. I wish I could remember the name of that book. I did a quick Google search, but could not find it, and I have long ago lost my copy of it.

Tonja said...

It's unbelievable to me what happened to Native Americans.

Cat Lavoie said...

I'm learning so much from your posts! I barely knew anything about Geronimo. Awesome choice for G. Have a great weekend!

Sherry Ellis said...

Great bit of history! I enjoyed reading it. And I never knew his name meant, "One who yawns." Very interesting!

Jemi Fraser said...

I knew a little. North American history is so full of heartbreak and broken promises. I hope we've learned from it!

Shelley N Greene said...

Cool post - very informative. :0)

Donna B. McNicol said...

Great post!!

Kern Windwraith said...

I'm so happy to have reached your blog this early in the challenge (early for me, anyway!). What a terrific theme in general, and specifically, I really enjoyed this post on Gernonim, from the history lesson to the graphics.

I'll definitely be stopping back to find out more about the Wild West.

Andrew Leon said...

And now I'm trying to remember the relation of Geronimo to saying it when you jump from a plane. I used to know this...
Darn you! And it's too late to go look it up now. Well, I could, but my brain is too tired.

PR said...

I'd heard the word, some people say it when they are about to do something risky, bad had no idea it was a real person! :)

Universal Gibberish

Corinne said...

A very sad, tragic story. Odd that we all know his name, but honestly, how many of us know about his life.

Thank you for this brief on his life.

Jo said...

I didn't know much about Geronimo. Interesting. How badly he was treated and what a rotten life he was forced to live by the whites. We have a lot to answer for.

Helen Baggott said...

What a fascinating post. Thank you for sharing.

Unknown said...

I love your choice of topic and found this extremely interesting. I'm always fascinated when historical characters leave a mystery behind. If there is a secret passage, there could be lots of artifacts...imagine that!
Rhia from Five Minute Piece for Inspiration (around # 802 in A to Z list today)

Beverly Diehl said...

Nice to get the real story, as opposed to the myths and legends.

It is truly shameful how Native Americans were treated in the US. I love my country, but wish we had acted more with honor and less with greed when it came to those who were here first.

Anita said...

Thanks for an interesting post. I'd only known a little of his history previously, so thanks for sharing :)

Pa Ul said...

nice post :0

Matthew MacNish said...

I have definitely heard of Geronimo, but I was not aware of all of this. Thanks for sharing, Shannon!

Adam said...

Incredibly thorough and entertaining post, and I love the theme of your blog challenge! My dad almost named me Geronimo, but my mom vetoed it :(

Shannon Lawrence said...

Luana, I'm Cherokee, as well! The consensus seems to have been that he earned the name by running straight into battle, bullets flying around him, so I think the use of his name since then has been pretty accurate.

Gregg, he was definitely an interesting guy.

Beth, that is precisely the same issue I ran into with my Native background. My mom's family was brought up being ashamed of their heritage, so nothing was passed down. That makes me so incredibly sad.

Jamie, glad you could discover a new kind of Geronimo!

Mshatch, it's truly sad what has occurred and, really, what is still occurring.

Alex, he really did, especially considering much of his life was spent in vengeance and war.

Gossip Grl, thank you!

Shannon Lawrence said...

Kathleen, I am betting you know a lot more about him than I do then! What was the book?

D.G., I agree wholeheartedly. I'm glad you knew of him already, though!

Fidel, I don't think so. Three words: Japanese Concentration Camps.

Annalisa, thank you!

S.L., I bet that was an interesting paper!

Erin, thank you!

Sue, oh, how interesting to research his family!

Shannon Lawrence said...

Eliza, thank you!

Debra, Happy Easter to you!

Shelly, thanks! Happy Easter and Passover to you, as well!

Cecilia, I'll have to come check out your Gemini post!

Chuck, it really is amazing! Really, I'm surprised every time I read about one of these folks from the Wild West who made it to a ripe old age.

Maryann, I would love to find out what that book was called!

Tonja, I wish everyone felt that way.

Shannon Lawrence said...

Cat, thank you so much! I hope you had a wonderful weekend!

Sherry, I wonder how he got that name? I didn't happen across that story.

Jemi, I do, as well!

Shelley, thank you!

Donna, thank you!

Kern, so wonderful to hear! Thanks for the compliment.

Andrew, I understand brain tirednesss! I think it has something to do with him earning the name from the soldiers because he would rush into battle, not matter what was happening.

Shannon Lawrence said...

Anna, I hope to remedy that, as has to do with Native history!

Corinne, it is odd, and sad. Our History classes have holes.

Jo, I was surprised to learn his biggest battles began with the Mexican army and evolved into being with the whites, as well.

Baggy, thank you for reading!

Rhia, I would love to discover that secret tunnel!

Beverly, well put! I think we could have found a way to co-exist, but the settlers were so into having the best of everything, and confused by a people who did not "own" land.

Anita, glad you learned something from it!

Pa, thank you!

Matthew, thanks for reading!

Adam, you could always change your name!