Jan. 20 (Monday)

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Full Name: Geronimo
Born: June 1829 in No-Doyohn Canyon, Mexico
Died: Feb. 17, 1909 in Fort Sill, Oklahoma

Geronimo is the best known Apache freedom fighter and therefore one of the most revered Native American warriors. (He was a medicine man, seer and intellectual, rather than a chief.)

Generations of Apaches had resisted white colonization of their Southwest homeland by both Spaniards and North Americans when Geronimo was admitted to the warriors’ council in 1846. Embittered by the death of his mother, wife and children at the hands of Mexicans in 1858, Geronimo struck back in raids that demonstrated his extraordinary courage and skill as a warrior. Later, some 4,000 Apaches who had been forced onto a barren reservation by the U.S. government in 1874 rallied behind Geronimo and other warriors, ending a period of relative peace established by Lt. Colonel George F. Crook.

Geronimo’s Indian name was Goyathlay (“One Who Yawns”). He earned the name Geronimo during a battle with Mexican soldiers.

Crook returned to Arizona, where he compelled Geronimo to surrender in January 1884. However, Geronimo fled the San Carlos reservation in May 1885. Nearly a year later, Geronimo surrendered a second time in Sonora. However, fears that they would be murdered once they crossed the U.S. border prompted Geronimo and a small band of followers to bolt.

Overwhelmed by 5,000 soldiers and 500 Indian auxiliaries, Geronimo surrendered a third time on Sept. 3, 1886 at Skeleton Canyon in Arizona after it was promised that he and his followers would be permitted to return to Arizona after an indefinite exile in Florida. The U.S. government maintained a long tradition of breaking its promises, and the Apache prisoners were forced into hard labor. Geronimo spent his last days at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, a celebrity who never again saw his home. Having led the last significant guerrilla Indian action in the U.S., Geronimo became a symbol of pride for all Native Americans.