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  • Writer's pictureRachel Red-Horse

Native Legends: Geronimo

Geronimo, its a word thousands of children have yelled right before they cannon ball into water. To Indian Country it means so much more.

Geronimo, whose birth name is Goyahkla, earned his moniker leading Apache raids during the war between the Apaches and Mexico. When he was born, and during his early adult life, the territories now known as New Mexico and Arizona were still a part of Mexico. There were frequent skirmishes between the Apache tribes and Mexican soldiers, his family was slaughtered by Mexican soldiers in 1851 and this is what fed and grew his disdain for soldiers. During the funeral ceremony for his family he was told by a voice that "no gun will ever kill you. I will take bullet from the guns...and guide your arrows." He soon avenged his family .

Over the years he continued to lead raids on Mexican soldiers and camps. Eventually the U.S. seized land in Arizona and New Mexico, including ancestral Apache lands. This led to the creation of reservations and the removal of his people from their lands. He led escapes from the reservation several times, each time the escape was longer than the next. The army found it was near impossible to catch and always recovered from any injuries he sustained. He led his last reservation escape in 1885 which ended in a forced surrender.

Once he was captured he became a showpiece for the American Government. He was paraded at fairs and wild west shows, this allowed the government to show their power and recover from the embarrassment he had caused. The great warrior died of pneumonia in 1909, still in custody of the American government.

Geronimo has been portrayed as many things; rebel, warrior, savage, and hero. But just why is he someone Native people regard so highly?

It's simple he fought for his people against oppressive colonizers. Ok maybe it's a little more than that...

Geronimo was a fierce warrior while also being humble and honest. His people were his first priority and he continued to fight for them until his death in captivity. He was a man who cared for his family and struggled to protect his territory and culture from outsiders. In the end Geronimo only asked, “It is my land, my home, my father’s land, to which I now ask to be allowed to return,” he said. “I want to spend my last days there, and be buried among those mountains. If this could be I might die in peace, feeling that my people, placed in their native homes, would increase in numbers, rather than diminish as at present, and that our name would not become extinct.”

We honor this warrior and the way he fought for his people.

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