It was here Geronimo was born in , though his given name was Goyathlay. He was an Apache — of the Chiricahua band — and while the area was their spiritual home, it was also part of Mexico.
Geronimo: My Life by S. M. Barrett
Today it represents the line between New Mexico and Arizona. When the Apache raided villages, it brought them into conflict with the Mexican government. This in turn led to a devastation for the young warrior.
One day Geronimo returned to camp and found his family done away with by Mexican troops — his wife Alope, his children and his mother had perished in an all-out assault on the community. I did not pray, nor did I resolve to do anything in particular, for I had no purpose left. His purpose was arguably ingrained in him.
Geronimo soon pursued a vengeful reckoning against Mexican forces. Though he was born Goyathlay, he was to become known as the name he is remembered by, Geronimo. But where did the name come from? His enemies may have cried out for the Saint as the Native American legend swooped down upon them. Land was being claimed and divided up, with no regard for indigenous peoples.
Geronimo , Apache chief who led opposition to the U. The Apaches, of course, had other ideas.
But in a relatively short space of time, settler authorities got the upper hand. Reservations were seen as a perfect solution for all but the Native Americans themselves. The Chiricahuas were originally going to live on a reservation which incorporated some of their land in They were unceremoniously marched off to the notorious San Carlos Reservation in Arizona just a few years later. Geronimo had suffered heart-breaking betrayals on the path to freedom, both from his own people and those who wanted to capture him.
His national status as one to be feared certainly endured. In he finally laid down his arms and surrendered, with a reported quarter of the American military might on his tail. This gave him the dubious distinction of being the last Native American leader taken by the US. From here, his life went in an unexpected direction. After many years as a thorn in the side of the establishment, he became part of it. Not long after the Spanish conquistadores explored the region for gold, they began snatching Apaches and other natives as slaves.
War became a way of life in the colonial and then Mexican frontier region, as Mexicans massacred Apaches and stole away women and children, Apaches raided Spanish and then Mexican settlements and lived off the plunder. The Mexican military counterattacked, and Apaches wreaked bloody vengeance.see url
Geronimo: My Life by Geronimo
The cycle of violence went on for three centuries. The U. With the discovery of silver and copper reserves in the region, an American flood spilled over Apacheria. Centuries of violence between Mexican and Apache inevitably splashed Americans with blood. Short, stout, strong, an exceptional marksman, gifted with a keen sense of guerilla military tactics, Geronimo became a warrior by age 17 and joined the frequent raids on settlements in Sonora and Chihuahua.
Besides plunder, raiders butchered people, often in the most brutal fashion. In fact, I think his motives and actions—if sometimes cowardly and sometimes lionhearted, sometimes barbarous and sometimes deeply compassionate—are entirely clear. He grew to manhood in a warrior and raiding society immersed in centuries of conflict with Spanish settlers.
He lived in an Apache tribal culture in which blood family and its extension as clan, or band, held supreme importance.
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Mexicans gave him all the motivation he needed. While Geronimo and the Apaches could in fact claim virtually no territory of Mexico as homeland, Mexico became the spiritual homeland for his hatred. While off drinking with other tribesmen outside Janos, in Sonora, Geronimo and the other men returned to their encampment to discover scores of elderly, women, and children murdered or stolen away into slavery by Mexican irregulars.
Those were just the first of his many wives and children killed in such massacres and battles.
Geronimo: My Life
So he took his revenge. With post—Civil War U. After centuries of moving about at will, taking what they wanted, and fighting those who resisted, reservation life nonetheless proved palatable for some Apaches. Not for the restless Geronimo. Three times he went off the reservation. Finally in May of , he led 42 warriors and about 90 women and children, weighted down by infants and babies and lacking any dependable source of food, clothing, or shelter, into Mexico. Some 5, well-supplied U. Army cavalry troops and their enlisted Apache Scouts hunted them, along with 3, Mexican troops and some 1, scalp bounty hunters.
With a quarter of the entire U. Army in hot pursuit, Geronimo drove, hid, and fed his people for a year and a half through thousands of miles of desert where summer temperatures reached a killing degrees and over craggy, snow-covered peaks. The Army chased; the Apaches scattered and vanished, only to reassemble as if by magic for more raids. That outbreak stands as an unmatched record of resistance in modern military history.
Eventually he and his people were remanded to Fort Sill where he would remain free to move about but not leave without permission. People came from far and wide to photograph the defanged tiger in his Fort Sill home. The Army permitted him to tour as an attraction with Wild West shows and sent him off to the St. Geronimo was the last renegade, the last man to defy the continent-straddling power of the American nation.
He became a human landmark, a trophy, and a symbol.