The first substantial interaction of the indigenous nations of America with White colonizers occurred in the 16th century with the advent of Spanish contingent who moved Northwards from their base in Southern Mexico. By the end of the 16 th century, the Spaniards had reached the borders of New Mexico and California, while in 1565, they founded the first white settlement of St Augustine in Florida (Parkes-15). The Spanish colonists had set out to accumulate wealth, trade and with a genuine belief in the need to convert as many indigenous people as possible to the Catholic faith. The Spanish requirements for trade, settlements and religious conversion brought them in to direct conflict with the indigenous people.
Another incident with equally far reaching significance to the history of the indigenous people of America occurred during the completion of the Western Settlement in the second half of the 19th century. Before White settlers could move in, the Indians had to be subdued and this required a quarter of a century of constant warfare. Throughout its history, “the story of White-Indian relations was a dreary record of broken treaties and of encroachments by white settlers on the Indian Lands” (Parkes 243).
The conflict with the Indians was marked by an unprecedented level of savagery and brutality (by either party) with tales of heroic deeds abounding on either side. One of the most notable figures during this period of conflict was the Apache Indian Warrior-‘Geronimo’, the last Indian leader to surrender to the American Forces.
Geronimo was a prominent Native American leader of the Chiricahua Apache who warred against the encroachment of the United States on his tribal lands and people for over 25 years. The Chiricahua and Mescalero Apache are two tribes, closely related in both language and culture, which formerly lived in adjacent areas of southern New Mexico and Arizona. The Chiricahua territory lay west of the Rio Grande, and the Chiricahua bands ranged through southwestern New Mexico, southeastern Arizona, and the northern parts of Sonora and Chihuahua (Opler 174). The Mescalero country was east of the Rio Grande and extended approximately from the Mexican border to the region south of Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Thesis The focus of this research paper is to dwell upon the life and actions of Geronimo and will cover the various facets of his life.
Early Life Geronimo (Chiricahua Goyaałé ‘One Who Yawns’; often spelled Goyathlay in English) (June 16, 1829–February 17, 1909) was born to the Bedonkohe band of the Apache, near Turkey Creek, around the headwaters of the Gila River, in what is now the state of Arizona, then part of Mexico, but which his family considered Bedon-ko-he land. Geronimo was the fourth child in a family of eight children, and his early years were spent in learning the rudiments of Indian life, toiling on the farms,hunting, learning the basics of Indian medicine and community related work(Barret 22-32).Geronimo lost his father during childhood and was brought up by his mother, who never remarried.At the age of 17, he was admitted in to the fold of warriors, a ritual which marked the transition of a boy to manhood.Geronimo was very pleased to be recognised and admitted into the warriors fold as he was quite interested in making his mark as a true warrior for his tribe. Shortly thereafter, he got married to Alope, his first wife,with whom he had three children(Barret 38).
Due to the peculiar political circumstances prevailing at that time and the conflict of interest of the Apaches with the Mexicans and then the Americans, the Apaches of Geronimo’s generation spent a major portion of their life engaged in the pursuit of warfare.
Mexican Attack-A catalyst Since the Indians were at peace with the Mexicans, they regularly travelled further South in to Mexican towns for conducting trade. In 1858,during one of these trips, Geronimo’s whole tribe had gone to a place called Case Grande in Mexico. While the menfolk had gone to town to conduct their trade , the women and children were left behind in their camp at Kas-ki-yeh near Case Grande. While returning from town, Geronimo and the other men were informed regarding an attack by Mexican regulars on their camp,wherein a large number of women and children had been killed. During this attack, Geronimo had lost everything he could call family: his mother, his wife and his three children. The senseless killing and the sheer brutality of the attack left a deep imprint on Geronimo who developed a deep sense of hatred for Mexicans and whites and vowed to devote himself to killing as many of these as possible.This event led to the transformation of a happy go lucky Apache Indian in to a formidable and sworn enemy of the Mexicans and the Americans.
Upon returning to their lands, his tribe began preparations for exacting revenge on the Mexicans. On behalf of his tribe, Geronimo contacted the Chokonen and the Nedni Apaches for support in carrying out the attacks on the Mexicans.In the Summer of 1859,the three tribes crossed into the Mexican border to wage the war of revenge. The Mexicans had put in two infantry and cavalry columns each to resist this attack. One of the cavalry columns was identified as the troops responsible for the Apache massacre at Kasiyeh.Since Geronimo had been the most badly affected by their massacre, he was given the honour to lead and conduct operations against this cavlary column. Despite the fact that Geronimo was not a chieftain, he employed considerable tactical acumen and displayed great courage in decimating the Mexican force. Due to the resounding success of this battle and the indomitable courage displayed by Geronimo, he was made the war chief of all the Apaches(Barret 54). Subsequently, Geronimo conducted several raids in to Mexican territory for the sole purpose of revenge and loot with varying degrees of success. By 1868, Geronimo had attained a formidable reputation as a good tactician, great warrior and leader of men in battle.He took part in a number of battles against the Mexicans and led the Apaches quite well with a high degree of success until 1884. Towards the end of 1884, the Apaches got involved in clashes with the US Forces who replaced the Mexicans as their biggest enemy .Though Geronimo never got an opportunity to wage war with the Mexicans thereafter, the hatred seethed within him and he never forgave them.
Conflict with The US Alongside the industrial revolution in the 19th century, there was taking place in this part of the world an equally momentous transformation:the settlement of the Western half of the US.In 1860, the Western most boundary of the US can be inferred as the imaginary line joining Minnesota,Iowa, Arkansas, Texas and Missourie.The scarcity of water, timber and the militancy of the local Indian tribes had hitherto, discouraged any attempt at settlement; and in fact these areas had been left to the Indians and to the immense herds of buffaloes on which they lived.Before the settlements could begin, it was necessary to either subdue Indian resistsance or get them to move away from these lands. Very soon the conflict of interests led to skirmishes and then to full blown war. There was savage fighting with the Apaches and the Navajoe in what is the South West USA.
The beginning The first American surveyors came in to Apache territory in 1958, around the same period that the Kas-ki-yeh massacre had taken place at Case Grande.Geronimo and a few travellers had gone upto these early group of whites and established friendly relations with them. There was some form of trade by barter conducted with them and both sides were mutually pleased at the arrangement.Trouble with the Americans began with the establishment of an American Army contingent at Gile River.The skirmishes were viewed to have been begun by the aggression of the Army regulars and Geronimo participated in the first Indian campaign against the Americans in 1968.The troubles got exacerbated when in an incident viewed as trechery by the Indians, the Army soldiers after inviting the Indians for a conference to Fort Bowie,Apache Pass attacked and killed a large numbers of the Indian contingent on the pretext of serving them food.This incident was followed by a general air of mistrust betwwen both the parties and skirmishes leading to American or Indian deaths took place regularly.
Battles with the American Troops During the period from 1869-1886,until the time of his surrender, Geronimo continued to be engaged in warfare either with the Mexicans of with the Americans. Despite the fact that the Apaches were a primitive people,technologically not up to the adversaries and the opening up of two fronts, it must be stated that they conducted the wars with credit and finesse. In the following pages, I will briefly explore the numerous engagements that the Apaches and Geronimo in particular, led against the Americans.
Betrayal at New Mexico From the Indian perspective, the greatest wrong ever committed by the US troops occurred in 1863 at New Mexico. Believing reports that the US troops and personnel located at Apache Tejo were more friendly and amicable to working out a peace treaty, The Bedenkohe chief Mangus –Colorado accompanied by three other warriors proceeded to have a meetin with them . During the meeting , the Americans offered the chief rations, food and clothing in exchange for his tribe to come and settle closer to the American settlement at Apache Tejo. During the tribal meeting, Geronimo voiced his doubts about the sincereity of the American offer, hence it was decided that the chief accompanied by a small group of well armed warriors would go anc collect the rations. If the Americans kept their word, then the rest of the tribe would follow.
However, no word was heard of this party and later Geronimo got to know that they had been trecherously captured and slain.This incident had a profound and lasting impression on Geronimo and only fuelled further hatred and distrust for the white man. It was followed by repeated skirmishes and attacks with the American troops.Seriously depleted of food, rations, stores and horses, Geronimo led his tribe to Chief Victoria of the Chihenne (Ojo Caliente) at Hot Springs, where his tribe recouped and rested for a considerable period of time.He returned with his tribe to Apache Pass (Fort Bowie) in 1972.
General Howard Although, General O. O. Howard was not in command, he had been sent by President Grant, in 1872, to make peace with the Apache Indians. When Geronimo approached him for a treaty, General Howard immediately agreed and ensured that his part of the commitment of the treaty was honored. This had a strong impact on Geronimo who felt tremendous respect for the General. Geronimo believed that the General was the most sincere of all the white men he had ever been in contact with. During his stay at Fort Bowie, Geronimo was frustrated by the continued infighting between the Indians and decided to leave for Hot Springs, from where his tribe joined the the Chihenne (Ojo Caliente) led by Chief Victoria.After this, Geronimo did have some problems with the US troops who arrested and kept him in prison before releasing him after four months, but by and large things were peaceful. Meanwhile, Geronimo and his tribe were permitted to live near San Carlos, in a place called Geronimo.
Summer of 1883 During the summer of 1883, rumors amongst the Indian tribes mentioned the likely imprisonment of the entire all the tribal chiefs by the US Army. The rumor coincided with the arrival of instructions for the chiefs to meet the US officers at Fort Thomas. The Indians had vivid memories of the incidents in the tent at Apache Pass, the fate of Magus-Colorado, and Geronimo’s unjust imprisonment. The Indians did not trust the intentions of the US representatives and decided that it was in their interest to leave the reservations and die fighting like warriors rather than be summarily massacred. And hence, Geronimo and his band fled to New Mexico and after a year returned to their reservation at San Carlos. During this period, they had numerous encounters with the US forces, with varying results.
Numerous Skirmishes The process of Geronimo and the tribes fleeing and then returning to the reservation (either voluntarily or by capture) continued for a considerable period of time. Each time, considerable numbers of troops would be mobilized to recapture him. In early 1885, frustrated by life and the conditions in the reservations, Geronimo fled again with his tribe. He was immediately pursued by about a body of 5000 US soldiers (Dolan 60-61).
Treaty with General Miles Towards the beginning of 1885, Geronimo thoroughly worn out by inassecant warfare and his tribe severly depleted in numbers, contacted General Miles to work out a treaty. The treaty was formally drawn, both sides accepted it and Gerinimo surrendered on 04 September 1886 at Skeleton Canyon, Arizona.. During the meeting General Miles had conveyed on behalf of the Government all the benefits that would be given to the Apaches. However, these provisions were subsequently withdrawn by the US Government. Geronimo could never understand that General Miles had no influence in these matters of Government, and continued to blame him for betrayal and lies.
The Final Surrender At the end of his military career, he led a small band of 38 men, women and children. They evaded 5,000 U.S. troops (one fourth of the army at the time) and many units of the Mexican army for a year. His band was one of the last major forces of independent Indian warriors who refused to acknowledge the United States Government in the American West. This came to an end on September 4, 1886, when Geronimo surrendered to United States Army General Nelson A. Miles at Skeleton Canyon, Arizona. While outnumbered, Geronimo fought against both Mexican and United States troops and became famous for his daring exploits and numerous escapes from capture from 1858 to 1886.
Conclusion Geronimo and other warriors were sent as prisoners to Fort Pickens, Florida, and his family was sent to Fort Marion. They were reunited in May 1887, when they were transferred to Mount Vernon Barracks in Alabama for 5 years. In 1894, they were moved to Fort Sill, Oklahoma. In his old age Geronimo became a celebrity. He appeared at fairs, including the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, and sold souvenirs and photographs of himself. However, he was not allowed to return to the land of his birth. He rode in President Theodore Roosevelt’s 1905 inaugural parade. He died of pneumonia at Fort Sill in 1909 and was buried at the Apache Indian Prisoner of War Cemetery there.
Barret S.M Geronimo: Story of His Life Elegant Books
Dolan Edward F. The American Indian Wars Twenty-First Century (2003)
M.E. Opler An outline of Chiricahua Apache Social Organization in F. Eggan (ed.), Social Anthropology of North American tribes (Chicago, 1937)
Parkes B.H. The United States of America: A History ;Knopf Publishers,New York.