Paper on Geronimo

This essay has a total of 2113 words and 9 pages.


There is so much about Geronimo that is appealing as a story. Geronimo the Man was a
brilliant personal leader; strong and proud, and immensely spiritual--a hero in the real
sense. As Geronimo's exploits became daily fare in the newspapers, the American
government's Indian policy became the popular subject of political debate in that time
period that extended even to the President. Raids, counterraids, traps and ambushes,
Geronimo proved himself a master tactician and more. Always, just when the end seemed
near, Geronimo and his band would disappear like ghosts back into the canyons and
mountains of the desert southwest. Across thousands of square miles of the Great
American Desert, Geronimo, along with a handful of Apache men, women and children, would
lead thousands of soldiers of two nations on bloody chase. Consistently outgunned and
always outmanned, Geronimo's legend would grow as he continually overcame enormous odds,
persistent government agents and Apache scouts recruited by the US Government. Geronimo
has the distinction of being "the last American Indian to formally surrender to the United
States government" (Davis et al 88) --but only after a long struggle.

Geronimo was born in June of 1829 in No-doyohn Caņon, Arizona. His tribal name was
Goyathley, which means "one who yawns". Later in life he became known as Geronimo, "Little
Jerome" As he learned to talk, his mother told him stories of the sun, moon, stars, wild
beasts, and of Usen the "Great Spirit who made everything and should be worshipped"
(Trimble165). When he was 8 or 9 years old he began hunting. He first learned to stalk
deer by crawling long distances from bush to bush, taking hours to creep close enough to
launch his arrow. As he grew older he went after bigger game such as bears and mountain
lions. The only weapons he used were spears and arrows and he was never injured in a fight
with any of them.

In the summer of 1858, when he was near the age of 30 he accompanied his tribe to trade.
They made camp a short distance from a town. When most of the men rode into town to barter
with the citizens, they left only a small guard over their possessions, wives, and
children. On their way back they encountered fugitive women from their tribe who told them
Mexicans raided the camp. The Mexicans stole their ponies and valuables and killed most of
the women and children. The tribe separated and approached the camp from different
directions. The information was true. Geronimo found his wife, three children and mother

Geronimo recalls "...there were no lights in camp, so without being noticed I silently
turned away and stood by the river. How long I stood there I do not know but when I saw
the warriors arranging for council I took my place" (qtd.Leider, et al 122). This
incident marked a turning point in his life-Geronimo learned to hate that day and vowed to
fight to the death for his land and people.

To the Apaches, Geronimo embodied the very essence of the Apache values; aggressiveness
and courage in the face of difficulty. These qualities brought fear to the settlers of
Arizona and New Mexico. The apaches were mostly migratory following the seasons, hunting
and farming. When food was scarce, it was the custom to raid neighboring tribes. Raids and
vengeance were an honorable way of life among the tribes of this region. Their prowess in
battle became the stuff of legend. "An Apache warrior, it was said, could run 50 miles
without stopping and travel more swiftly than a troop of mounted soldiers" (Davis et al
126). During the mid-1800's, one Apache raid caused as many as 4,000 colonists to lose
their lives. In the late 1800's, one U.S. Army general who had fought them meant it as a
grudging compliment when he described the Apache as "tigers of the human species" (qtd
Trimble 158).

The Apache saw themselves differently; they faced constant struggle to survive. When they
raided a village, they did so from pure necessity, to provide corn for their families

when game was scarce. Most of the time they went their own way, moving from camp to camp
in pursuit of deer and buffalo, collecting roots and berries, sometimes planting seeds
that they later returned to harvest. Apache lived in extended family groups, all loosely
related through the female line. And, each group operated under a respected family leader;
settling its own disputes, answering to no higher human authority such as the modern day
police or judge. The Elders of the tribe were the judges. The main exception to this
occurred during wartime, when neighboring groups banded together to fight a common enemy.
Unlike ordinary raiding, where the main object was to get food, war meant lethal business:
an act of revenge for the deaths of tribe members in earlier raids or battles. Leaders of
the local family groups would meet to elect a war chief, who led the fights.

A strict code of conduct governed Apache life, based on strong family loyalties. The most
important bond led from an Apache mother to her children and on to her

Grand children. Beyond this code of family obligations, the Apache shared a rich oral
history of myths and legends and a legacy of intense religious devotion that touched every
part of their lives.

"In 1874, U.S. authorities forcibly moved some 4,000 Apaches to a reservation at San
Carlos, a barren wasteland in east central Arizona" (Powersource). Deprived of
traditional tribal rights, short on rations and homesick, they turned to Geronimo who led
them in the fight for freedom that plunged the region into turmoil and bloodshed Within a
few months three other tribes agreed to join them on the warpath. They traveled silently
and swiftly on foot. Horses would leave a trail; and on foot they could dodge and twist
around the mountains so they could not be followed. When they reached the town of Arispe
eight soldiers had tracked them down. The Indians killed and then scalped them in plain
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