Geronimo- Apache Warrior

            Who was this fierce warrior, so laid-back as a
            child, he was named Goyakla, "He who yawns," by
            his people?

            Geronimo was an important Apache Native American
            leader who rose to celebrity. His many cunning
            escapes from Indian reservations and the failure of
            10,000 Mexican and American soldiers to capture him
            and his 39 warriors gave him a permanent place in

            Geronimo was born June 1829 in the No-doyohn Canyon,
            Arizona. His people were the Bedonkohe Apache, a branch of
            the Eastern Chiricahua Native Americans.
            His mother would tell him tales of their tribe's ancient and recent pasts and sang songs about his grandfather
            Mahko, a well known Bedonkohe Apache leader. His father and uncles taught him how to shoot a bow and arrow,
            how to catch and then leap on a horse, and how to run for miles without stopping.

            He is known to have had at least one sibling, a sister. They grew up in a time of trouble in the 1820s and 1830s,
            and learned firsthand what it meant to be an enemy of others. They watched their male relatives go off to
            battle against other tribes, the Spanish and Mexicans.

            As a child, Geronimo listened to the stories and heard the songs about his tribe's history and culture; his
            mother would have been responsible for conveying most of the information. She would have described tribal
            and personal standards that would eventually govern Geronimo's behavior and help him evaluate and draw
            conclusions about the world around him.

            Some stories would have been metaphors, some were the results of long-ago events, and some would express
            hope for their people's future. If oral tradition is accurate, Geronimo's mother told him about specific
            ancestors, described their strengths, their families, their philosophies, and their power in battles.

            His mother also conveyed the old sacred rituals observed by his ancestors, ways that were rich in praise and
            thankfulness to Ussen, the supreme Apache God, for his many gifts to the Bedonkohe people.

            Quite significant during his developmental years were the stories about his grandfather, Mahko, who had been a
            revered chief, beloved by tribesman because of his "great size, strength, and sagacity, . , , He was peace loving
            and generous . . . storing corn and dried beef and venison in caves, which he shared with the needy of his tribe."

            An event that occurred when Geronimo was about twelve
            years old no doubt was remembered and retold many times.

            In 1835 the Mexican state of Sonora, home to the
            Bedonkohe tribe, passed a law offering to pay bounty
            hunters 100 pesos for each Apache scalp.
            Two years later, the neighboring state of Chihuahua
            had joined Sonora's pay scale but added 50 pesos
            for a woman's scalp and 25 pesos for a child's scalp.

            Later, Geronimo's Mother, wife and children were killed by
            Mexican bounty hunters for the reward placed on
            Apache scalps.

            It is impossible to estimate the total effect bounty
            hunting had on Geronimo, but joining the Nednai group
            of Apaches to raid and fight in the mountainous
            Siena Madre could have been his response.  One of the
            leaders of the Nednai group was Juh, who became a
            lifelong friend.

            How Geronimo Got His Name
            With the desire for revenge festering, about one year
            later Geronimo directed a pitched battle near Arispe,
            Mexico. The fight lasted nearly two hours and Geronimo
            was so ferocious that the terrified Mexicans called on
            Saint Jerome, Geronimo," for help. The name Geronimo
            remained with him for life.

            Revenge burned in his heart ever after, but it didn't
            stop him from marrying again and again and becoming a
            father to several more children.

            Apaches Forced Onto Reservations
            It had been a common occurrence for the various Native
            Americans in the southwest to use raiding as a way to
            supplement the hunting and gathering of wild plants to
            survive. The Spanish, Mexicans, and now the Americans
            were pushing them into a smaller area to hunt, which had
            only a limited number of wild game, and therefore, would
            not support as many people.
            When Geronimo was in his early twenties the United States
            went to war with Mexico, producing even more confusion, even
            more disruption, even more settlers, and even more masters.

            Details of Geronimo's Family Massacre
            In the early 1850s peace reigned between the Bedonkohe Apaches
            and the state of Chihuahua, Mexico. Mangas Colmadas, the famous
            chief of Geronimo's people, led some of the men into the town of
            Janos to trade; only a few guards remained behind in the village
            to keep the women and children safe.

            A group of Mexican troops from Sonora descended on the unsuspecting people and attacked and killed most
            of the Apaches. As Geronimo and others, heady with success, made their way from town to their encampment,
            survivors met them with the bad news. Among those lying mutilated and dead were Geronimo's beloved
            young wife, Alope, his three children, and his mother.

            The shattering experience that enveloped
            the twenty-one year old warrior as he stood
            helplessly beside the bodies of his family
            literally changed him forever. In a masterful
            understatement he simply said, "None had lost
            as I had, for I had lost all."
            The Apache separated into smaller bands so
            that the hunting grounds available would support
            the group in a specific area. However, this soon
            became inadequate, and, like the Navajo and
            Pueblo Indians, the Apache turned to raiding
            livestock from settlers to survive.

            Eventually, the U.S. Army became tired of the
            raiding that the Apache Indians had been
            inflicting on the large amount of Americans
            coming into Arizona to settle, raise livestock
            and grow crops.

            They rounded up the Apaches and placed them on
            the San Carlos Reservation in Arizona in 1874,
            but Geronimo fled with a band of warriors into
            Mexico. They were caught and returned to
            San Carlos Reservation.

            Escape From the Reservation
            General George Cook caught them and returned them to the Reservation, only to have them escape again in 1885.
            This time Geronimo lead the escape. The Apaches had been angry because they were prevented from practicing
            their customs, and felt cheated by the scant rations they were given.

            Following their 1885 escape, Geronimo and his 39 warriors were pursued by 5000 American and about 5000
            Mexican troops, yet they were able to evade their pursuers, and to raid local food supplies for rations while on
            the run. Soldiers and Generals alike were amazed at the ability of these warriors. The army was unable to catch
            Geronimo and his warriors, but the constant pursuit had worn down the Apaches. Geronimo and his warriors
            agreed to surrender to General Miles and serve a 2 year sentence.

            This agreement was broken by President Cleveland who imprisoned the Apaches at Fort
            Pickens, Florida by train (see photo below), until 1894.

            Below: Photo of Geronimo and his warriors being sent by train to a Florida Reservation. He is
            in the front row 3rd from the right.

            Geronimo's ability to evade 2 armies of 10,000 men, while leading only 39 Apaches during the
            1885 escape from the reservation, made him a folk hero in Mexico and America. Buffalo Bill
            asked Geronimo to join his "Wild West" show because of his celebrity.

            In his later years, as a prisoner of war, he mellowed, adopted, grew several varieties of
            melons on his small farm. He caught pneumonia and died in 1909.

            Copyright 2012

            Geronimo and Barrett, S. M. (2011). Geronimo: The True
            Story of America's Most Ferocious Warrior.
            Roberts, D. (1994). Once They Moved Like The Wind :
            Cochise, Geronimo, And The Apache Wars.
          american indian jewelry
          Right: Photo of Geronimo on the
          Oklahoma Reservation in 1909,
          just before his death.
          Below: Photo of Geronimo with one of his many wives,
          and 3 of his children.
          Geronimo in 1886.
          Geronimo's Wife and Son
          Goyakla ("Geronimo")

          On the reservation was an Apache prophet named
          Noch-del-klinne. He told the Apaches that they should
          the Ghost Dance. If they did, two dead chiefs would come
          back to life and drive the Whites off the Apache lands.
          The stirring of aggression among the Apaches alarmed the
          U.S. Army, who came to arrest Noch-del-klinne. A scuffle
          occurred and the prophet was killed.

          Geronimo and his followers returned to their secret camp in
          the Sierra Madre Mountains of Mexico and continued their
          raiding practices.

          At Left: Apaches in San Carlos Reservation, 1874.