Tuesday, July 23, 2013





The Desert Warrior

In 1876, the U.S. government decided to relocate the Chiricahua Apache tribe to an Indian reservation known as the San Carlos Agency on the Gila River in Arizona. And with that act, the government transformed a peaceful, unknown Apache into a dreaded renegade, called Geronimo.

Described as "Hell's forty acres," San Carlos was not to Geronimo's liking. He refused to be relocated and led raiding parties throughout the southwest and into Mexico. The Apache Wars of 1876-1886 brought him continual notoriety, for when he became weary or hard pressed by the U.S. cavalry he would surrender, only to renew his raids as soon as reservation life again became irksome.

Born in southern Arizona in 1829, Geronimo was physically unimpressive, but his short stature belied the strength that was bound up in his large girth of chest. Geronimo (who began life as Goyathlay, meaning "One Who Yawns") assumed virtual control of the tribe not as an actual chief, but as the leader of a tough faction that followed him be­cause of his demonstrated skills in warfare.

In 1881, following a peaceful three­ year stint as a farmer, Geronimo led another series of forays. Caught and re­ turned to the Indian bureau, he took to the warpath again in April, 1882, only to be recaptured by General George Crook. Two more years of peaceful coexistence under military observation suddenly went up in flames when Geronimo was discovered manufacturing tiswin, a native liquor. Fearful of reprisal, the chief and his tiswin-sopped band of only 134 warriors fled deten­ tion in the early summer of 1885 to begin their bloodiest campaign.

For ten long months they terrorized settlers in Arizona and New Mexico in­ discriminately. Pursued into Mexico by more than 5,000 U.S. troops and 409 Apache Scouts, Geronimo was entrapped during May, 1886. Unable to obtain a promise of safe· return to America, he out-foxed his captors and escaped once more.

Finally, in September, 1887, Geronimo and the remnants of his band surrendered unconditionally. Although most of the settlers who had been victims of his savagery despised him and wanted him hanged, Geronimo was imprisoned at Fort Marion, Florida. Later, he was transferred to Mount Vernon Barracks, Alabama, and in 1905, he lived to ride again as a haughty but subdued warrior in the inauguration parade of President Theodore Roosevelt. He died at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, in 1909.

Illustration: Geronimo, photographed in his war gear, a studio portrait, 1877
© 1979. Panarizon Publishing Corp. USA
Photo: National Archives
Printed in Italy

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