Native Americans >> Biographies
Geronimo by Ben Wittick
- Occupation: Apache Chief
- Born: June 1829 in Arizona
- Died: February 17, 1909 in Fort Sill, Oklahoma
- Best known for: Fighting against the Mexican and U.S. governments to protect his homeland
Where did Geronimo grow up?
Geronimo was born in eastern Arizona in the year 1829. At the time, his homeland was claimed by both the Mexican government and the Apache people. Geronimo's family was part of the Bedonkohe band of the Apache.
As a child, Geronimo went by the name Goyahkla or "One Who Yawns." His father's name was The Grey One and his mother was Juana. he grew up playing with his brothers and sisters and helping his parents out in the fields planting corn, beans, and pumpkins.
While still a young boy, Geronimo trained to hunt and become a warrior. He learned how to shoot a bow and arrow and how to sneak up on a deer. He hunted all sorts of game including bears and mountain lions. He learned how to live on his own in the wild and how to survive tough conditions.
At around the age of seventeen, Geronimo became an Apache warrior. As a warrior he could get married. Geronimo was in love with a young girl named Alope from a nearby village. He presented Alope's father with a number of horses that he had taken in a raid and her father allowed them to get married. Over the next few years they had three children together.
His Family is Killed
One day while Geronimo and the men were off trading, the Apache camp was attacked by the Mexicans. Geronimo's wife, children, and mother were all killed. While grieving for his lost family, Geronimo heard a voice. The voice told him that "No gun can ever kill you. I will take the bullets from the guns of the Mexicans... and I will guide your arrows."
Geronimo then gathered the warriors of his village together and set off to get revenge against the Mexicans. Over the next several years, he led many raids into Mexico. He constantly harassed Mexican settlements, stealing their horses and killing their men.
How did he get his name?
Geronimo received his name sometime during the revenge battles with the Mexicans. No one is quite sure exactly how he got his name. Many say it was from the Mexican soldiers or from a Spanish officer who thought Geronimo reminded him of a character from a Spanish play.
Battle Against the U.S. Government
After the Mexican-American war, the United States claimed control over the land where the Apache lived. Geronimo and the Apache began to fight with the American settlers. After several battles with U.S. soldiers, the Apache leader Cochise made a treaty with the Americans and the Apache moved to a reservation.
The U.S. government soon broke the promises they made in the treaty with Cochise. Geronimo and his band of warriors continued raiding. He raided both the Mexican and the American settlements. He cleverly used the border between the two countries to evade capture. For many years, Geronimo attacked his enemies and then faded into the hills without being captured.
The U.S. Army became determined to capture Geronimo. They sent thousands of troops to search the hills of Arizona in order to stop him from raiding. In 1886, they finally caught up with him and he was forced to surrender.
Geronimo spent the rest of his life as a prisoner of war. Although he was eventually granted some freedom, he was never allowed to return to his homeland. He became a celebrity and even attended the 1904 World's Fair.
Geronimo died in 1909 after being thrown from his horse.
Interesting Facts about Geronimo
- Skydivers often yell "Geronimo" when they jump out of the airplane.
- Geronimo and his family were moved around to several places as prisoners including Texas, Florida, Alabama, and Oklahoma.
- The Australian pop band Sheppard had a hit song called Geronimo in 2014.
- Geronimo once said about his childhood that "I was warmed by the sun, rocked by the winds, and sheltered by the trees..."
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