Apache Chief Geronimo: a fierce warrior and leader

Apache Chief Geronimo: a fierce warrior and leader

Hello all!Geronimo, Apache

Hope you are doing well and have been enjoying yourself! Yesterday, on the West Coast of Canada, the sun was shining and the sky was blue 🙂 I also just attended a sweat and got rid of a few things and feelings I needed to get rid of. Feels good! A few weeks ago, I posted a picture of Geronimo on this site’s Facebook page and said that an article was coming about this great Apache chief. So here it is!! A wonderful and fierce leader and medicine man. And one hell of a warrior! Let’s talk about Apache Chief Geronimo.

Geronimo’s early years

Geronimo was born in June 1829 in No-Doyohn Canyon, in present day New Mexico (which was still Mexico at the time). Geronimo’s traditional name is Goyathlay or “One who yawns” and he belonged to a small Chiricahua Apache tribe, the Bedonkohe. Geronimo was born in a time when the Apache people were surrounded by enemies. The Mexicans for one as well as rival tribes such as the Comanche and the Navajo. Because yes, rivalry between tribes was huge back then. At times, it was survival of the fittest and everyone did what was needed to survive, including stealing and killing members of other tribes. The Apache were especially known to raid their neighbors when they were out of food for example. It was just part of the lifestyle. As a way to counteract the actions of the Apache people, the Mexican government (as at the time it was Mexican land), began offering rewards for Apache scalps. Yes you read that right. The scalp of a child for example was worth $25 (a significant amount of money at the time). The scalp of a child!!

Geronimo and Eva, his youngest daughter

Geronimo and Eva his youngest daughter

Early on Geronimo’s bravery and warrior like skills were noticed. As a child, it is said that he swallowed the heart of his first kill to bring him luck and success. Not for the faint of heart, no pun intended! Some say he was born a leader and began the life of a raider and a hunter early on. By the age of 17, he had already led four successful raids. Some said that he was blessed with a gift that made him invincible to bullets (see below). Whether or not that was the case, Geronimo escaped death and the authorities more times than what would seem humanly possible!

And then he fell in love…

But that did not stop him! Around the age of 17, Geronimo also met and fell in love with his first wife, Alope, with whom he had 3 children. Geronimo, embodying the Apache aggressiveness and courage continued to go on and lead raids, leaving his wife and children at home. He also continued to go on trading excursions into Mexico. A pivotal moment happened in 1858 when, coming back from one of those trading excursions, Geronimo found his wife, three young children and his mother, murdered by the Spanish troops. I can only imagine what he then felt. Pure hatred for the “opposition” and a desire to kill as many enemies as possible. There are unfortunately no picture of his first wife.

Geronimo's wife

One of Geronimo’s wives, 1880’s

Geronimo, in the Apache tradition, burned his family’s belongings and went to mourn and grieve his losses into the woods. It is then that some say he received his aforementioned gift. According to the story, Geronimo heard a voice, while alone and crying, that promised him he would never get hurt by guns.

And then he wanted revenge

Pumped by his vision, he rallied his troops and went looking for the Mexican soldiers who had killed his family. This was the beginning of years of raids and obtaining revenge against the Mexican authorities. However, this was also the time when the USA took over territory that until then was the Mexicans’. This was also around the same time as the gold rush in the USA and Lord behold, gold was found on the lands of the Apache. Settlers and miners rushed in invading the Apache land. In their tradition, the Apache said “hell no” (my own interpretation here…..) and began ambushing wagons and stagecoaches coming in.

And he escaped the authorities…

Cochise

Cochise

In a move that shocked and disappointed Geronimo, Chief Cochise, his father-in-law at the time, called the war quit and agreed for the Apache people to be placed on an established reservation. But as one can see from Cochise’s date of death on the picture on the right, he died soon after. The American government then went back on their word and moved the Chiricahua people north, giving their former land to the settlers. 

Geronimo wanted none of that and fled. He was eventually caught in 1877 and brought back to the reservation (Native people back then were not allowed to live outside of the reservation).

Geronimo tried to adapt to this way of life and his reservation but he was never happy. He fled again after 4 years in September 1881. By that time, Geronimo had made quite a name for himself and the American and Mexican authorities mobilized thousand of soldiers to find him. In May 1882, Apache scouts for the US army managed to penetrate his sanctuary in the mountains. He once again made his way back to the dreaded reservation.

Geronimo and nieces

Geronimo and nieces

Taz-ayz Slath (aka Taazslath) a wife of Geronimo, and her son - Chiricahua Apache - 1886

Taz-ayz Slath (aka Taazslath) a wife of Geronimo, and her son – Chiricahua Apache – 1886

His later years

For the next 4 years, the same pattern took place: escape, surrender, escape, surrender. In 1886, he surrendered one last time (often seen as the last Indian war in the USA) and the Chiricahua were moved to Florida. 450 men, women and children were moved to Fort Marion and Fort Pickens, Florida. Basically becoming prisoners of war. They then moved to Alabama and in 1894, they were moved one last time, this time to Fort Still, Oklahoma. Geronimo and his troops were then stuck in a prison camp and he became a rancher.

Geronimo (far right) at Mt Vernon Barracks, Alabama,-1887

Geronimo (far right) at Mt Vernon Barracks, Alabama,-1887

In his later years, Geronimo became a bit of a celebrity among the White people, as many wanted to see this “great brave Apache warrior”. in 1905, he wrote his biography and got to meet privately with then president Theodore Roosevelt. He even rode in the president’s inaugural parade.

Geronimo

In 1909, while still a prisoner of war, stuck in Fort Still, Geronimo got thrown off a horse he was riding. He survived the night and was found by a friend the next day. He remained alive for 6 extra days but eventually succumbed. His last words were “I should never have surrendered. I should have fought until I was the last man alive”.

Geronimo spent his whole life fighting the system, fighting for the freedom of his people. Some say he was never a chief but rather a medicine man, a seer, an intellectual and spiritual leader. Many sought his wisdom and advice. But many also perceived him as being stubborn and driven by revenge (for the death of his family), thus putting his people in danger. I think that no matter how one sees it, Geronimo was a leader who wanted his people to be free. He wanted to continue to live the life his people had always led. On the land that was the land of their ancestors. And that to me, is one hell of a good reason to speak up and not surrender. But like other great chiefs such as Sitting Bull and Chief Joseph, he also knew when he needed to surrender for the life of his people. He nonetheless died never able to see and be home again. And that makes me sad.

Geronimo (apache), Quanah Parker (Comanche)-1905

Geronimo (Apache), Quanah Parker (Comanche)-1905

Did you enjoy learning about the life of Apache Chief Geronimo? Comment below and I will answer you 🙂

All my Relations

 

 

24 thoughts on “Apache Chief Geronimo: a fierce warrior and leader

  1. Tina

    I loved the article! Thank you for including pictures. It would be interesting to see how his family tree grew and what his relations are doing today. Hope you write more articles on others.

    Reply
  2. Shaz

    As always, it is a pleasure going through your posts as they are full of detail and something every reader can appreciate and connect to. I say that as a reader based thousands of miles away from you, sitting in my office in sunny Dubai 🙂

    Geronimo’s story reminds me of Mahatma Gandhi or Nelson Mandela – more recent heroes with similar tales of bravado and legend. Looking forward to reading more of such posts!

    Reply
    1. Emily Post author

      Thanks for taking the time to read the story of this great Apache warrior. It makes me happy to know that his story is shared across the world 🙂

      Reply
  3. Eva Rauls

    I have visited his cell at FT. Sille OK. I found it very interesting but did not know the story behind his capture and also have been to his burial place,! They tie little bags of spices on the tree above his grave to this day!! So he has visitors still !! My son retired there works on post for army!!

    Reply
    1. Emily Post author

      Nice Eva! What an honor it must have been to visit those places! I did not know about the bags of spices, such a great tradition. Grand man for sure!

      Reply
  4. Oline Wright

    I enjoyed this article a lot. In many ways the Native American peoples were greatly villainized. I remember reading that the taking of scalps was a “white man’s” invention and also that the genocide perpetrated on the Jewish peoples by Hitler was learned from the United States’ treatment of the Native American people. This makes me quite sad because I can truly visualize this as probable.

    Reply
    1. Emily Post author

      Hi Oline
      oh for sure! The genocide of the Native people was a humongous one that is often neglected and not recognized but it is a huge part of history. That was partly repeated on the Jewish people. Native people were oftentimes perceived as “stupid savages” when in fact the ancestors were so wise and strong.

      Reply
  5. Garen

    I think a lot of civilizations have been treated poorly if you look back in history. It is sad that Native American’s get known for scalping people. However, they were on this land first and get pushed into reservations because the people that came over were more technologically advanced. Think about it the United States has done lots of horrible things; slavery, dropping nukes, invading countries and forcing democracy, and yes forcing Native Americans to reservations.

    But, I believe Native American’s are more “pure”. They don’t take things for granted like a lot of other cultures. If you had to pick three of the best things we could learn from Native American’s what do you think it would be?

    Reply
    1. Emily Post author

      Hi Garen
      I think that for the longest time, Native people were seen as savages who were stupid. When in fact they were and are so wise! And so intelligent! Geronimo is the proof. In terms of 3 things we could learn from the culture, it’s a hard one! But for, I would say the respect for Mother Earth and all our relations in nature. As well as the concept of “all my relations”, that we are all related and are all one. Finally, the concept that we are all spiritual beings on our Earth time (when we are in the physical realm). There are many more but those are very important to me.

      Reply
      1. Garen

        I agree that people we don’t understand or in this case are seen as savages are perceived as stupid. There are lot of people in this world that we might not think they are all that intelligent upon learning about them. Once you dig down a little bit deeper you realize just how intelligent they really are, though.

        I think we can learn from every culture and Native Americans can teach us a lot about life even in the modern day era.

        Reply
        1. Emily Post author

          Absolutely agree! I work with a population that is often ignored and discarded as having nothing to say. But they do! Everyone has a purpose in this world, we just need to listen and pay attention.

          Reply
  6. Jason

    Wow! This story of Geranimo is truly a special one. I have heard the name of Geranimo before but I never knew that he was a great warrior in the Mexican history. It is really good to learn new things about great influential people who have been through a lot in their lives.

    I cannot even start to imagine what I would do if I went through a such torturous experiences like what Geranimo went thought. Imagine my entire family been wiped out by the Spaniards or the Mexicans (Was it the Spanish troops or the Mexican troops that murdered his family?, I see where you mentioned the two different groups)

    I do not blame him for his anger at all. They took from him his family – how can A man not grieve and want revenge?

    This Geranimo is truly a hero that we should all know about. I am glad that you are one of the few people sharing this hidden history.

    Thank you Emily.

    Best,
    Jason.

    Reply
    1. Emily Post author

      Thanks for taking the time to read Geronimo’s story Jason. I do believe it was the Mexican troops who killed his family. I would have been devastated too for sure. Such a story of strength, courage and perseverance.

      Reply
        1. Emily Post author

          hi
          Yes if you scroll to the bottom of the article you will find 3 from Amazon. Just click on any of them to get to the listing. 🙂

          Reply
  7. Charlotte Morris

    i enjoyed reading this story. It makes me sad to know that the Indians were Hunted and slaughtered. They lived on the land, took only what they needed, gave back to the earth. To be made to live on a reservation when you knew nothing but freedom was and is a crime. Although I am a white eyes I have sympathy and compassion for Native Americans. i enjoy seeing the old pictures of the Chiefs and the rest of the people and reading the stories. Why can’t we all just get along…..

    Reply
    1. Emily Post author

      Hi Charlotte
      Why can’t we just get along indeed. Thank you for taking the time to read and share, I appreciate it. The people went through horrors, genocide after genocide. The effects still being felt today. But I see healing taking place slowly but surely.

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*