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eronimo (Goyaale), the leader on the defensive front against the American armies, is one of those characters who, through acts of bravery under the sign of history and legend, has become a universal symbol. Born in 1829 in the No-Doyohn Canyon in Mexico, Geronimo continued with courage and persevered in the tradition of resistance to colonization in the southwest, organizing raids in Sonora and Chihuahua. After years of fighting, he surrendered to the Americans in 1886, then spent two decades in prison, but gained celebrity.

A true American-Indian warrior

A true legend of the wildlands across the border, the healer, was a very talented hunter who, according to stories, would have swallowed the heart of his first prey to ensure his future successes. Semi-nomadism was a defining element in Geronimo’s life. It belonged to a small gite from the Chiricahua tribe, Bedonkohe, in turn, part of the Apache community that numbered around 8,000 people.

The Apaches were surrounded by enemies: not only Mexicans but also other tribes, such as the Navajo or Comanche. The robbery of the neighbors was also the order of the day. In response, the Mexican government had set rewards for scalping Indians, including children. This did not discourage Geronimo and his men in any way; at the age of 17, he had already conducted four successful raids. He also fell in love with a girl named Alope, with whom he had three children.

But fate struck him cruelly when, on a business trip, Mexican soldiers ambushed his camp. When he returned, he found his family killed. Following the tradition of the Apaches, he set fire to the remaining goods and then, sorrowfully, withdrew into the wilderness to mourn his death. Here comes the legend, who says he heard voices that assured him that no gun could kill him.

Geronimo regained his powers, gathered an army of 200 people, and they all went out to hunt down the Mexican soldiers who killed his family. After ten years of constant harassment, Geronimo finally avenged the Mexican government. However, things began to change in 1850, when as a result of the war between the Americans and Mexicans concluded by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, the former seized large chunks of territory, including that of the Apostles. Encouraged by the discovery of gold in the southwest, settlers and miners swarmed their lands, disrupting their settlements.

Apache’s last age

Cochise, leader of the Chiricahua tribe (Source: Rare Historical Photos)

The Apaches tightened their attacks, which included violent ambushes. The leader of the Chiricahua tribe, however, Geronimo’s father-in-law, named Cochise, intuited where things were going. Deeply disappointing his son-in-law, he put an end to the war with the Americans in 1872 and agreed to organize a reservation for his community on highly prized land owned by the Apaches. Only a few years later, Cochise died, and the federal government no longer respected its agreement, moving the Chiricahua Apostles to the north along with members of other tribes to move settlers to their former lands. The reproachful act further angered Geronimo, who resumed the attacks.

The Indian proved to be as aggressive as he was elusive. Eventually, however, the authorities succeeded in seizing him in 1877, sending him to the San Carlos Reservation. For 4 years, he faced the new lifestyle, escaping in 1881. He and a small group of priests harassed American troops again and in the next five years fought what can be considered the last war between the Indians and Americans.

The impressions of Geronimo were as complex as his personality. The Allies regarded him as the last great defender of Indian liberty and customs, while others, including the Apostles, accused him of stubbornness and condemned his actions which they believed were dangerous to humans and resulted only from revenge. Followed by his faithful friends, the Indian crossed the southwest. The Apaches, knowing Arizona and Mexico well, were very difficult to locate.

Geronimo was captured by American troops. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

During the journey, Geronimo acquired a mystical aura, largely due to newspapers closely following the actions of the US military. Only the hearing of the name caused panic and terror. Rebellions and his constant flight have shamed the powerless authorities in front of him. At one point, 5,000 soldiers were on his tracks. Finally, in the summer of 1886, he surrendered. He was the last of the Chiricahua tribe to do so. Over the next few years, he and his group were repeatedly moved, first to a Florida prison, then to camps in Alabama and Oklahoma, spending almost 20 years in prison as prisoners of war.

Although under permanent supervision, Geronimo also became a star among his white enemies. Curious crowds came to see the famous warrior for a moment. In 1905 he published an autobiography, and in the same year, he was accepted into a private audience with President Roosevelt, in which he vainly tried to persuade him to let people return to Arizona. He died four years later, regretting the deathbed that he surrendered.

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