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Who was Geronimo?

Updated on May 2, 2011


Geronimo was an American Indian warrior of the Chiricahua Apache. Although he was not of the stature of Mangas Coloradas or Cochise, the press coverage given campaigns against him, and his penchant for publicity made his name a household word.

Geronimo, in Apache Goyathlay or Goyakla, meaning "he who yawns," emerged as a leader in 1858 when Mexican troops killed many of his people in a surprise attack near Janos in Chihuahua state.

An inveterate raider, he played a prominent role in breaking the peace that followed the establishment of a Chiricahua reservation in eastern Arizona in 1871. When the Chiricahuas were ordered removed to the despised San Carlos reservation on the Gila River in 1876, Geronimo fled to Mexico. He was arrested in 1877 while visiting the Warm Springs reservation in New Mexico.

He remained at peace until the fall of 1881, when he began conducting raids on both sides of the U.S./Mexican border. He eluded capture by troops of both nations for more than two years, but finally surrendered to General George H. Crook in May 1883 and returned to San Carlos. Two years later, however, Geronimo, with a small band, left the reservation, and resumed raiding.

The object of an intensive campaign, he agreed to a truce with Crook in March 1886, but fled to Mexico before finally surrendering to General Nelson A. Miles in August 1886. All the Chiricahuas were removed as prisoners of war to Florida and then resettled at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, in 1894.

Now a celebrity, Geronimo visited the St. Louis World's Fair and other expositions and was present at the inauguration of President Theodore Roosevelt in 1905.

Geronimo died of pneumonia at Fort Sill on February 17, 1909.


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