Biography of Geronimo: The Indian Chief and Leader

Geronimo, by Ben Wittick, 1887. Photograph Source: Public Domain

Born June 16, 1829, Geronimo was the son of Tablishim and Juana of the Bedonkohe band of the Apache. Geronimo was raised according to Apache tradition and lived along the Gila River in present-day Arizona. Upon coming of age, he married Alope of the Chiricauhua Apache and the couple had three children. On March 5, 1858, while he was away on a trading expedition, Geronimo's camp near Janos was attacked by 400 Sonoran soldiers led by Colonel Jose Maria Carrasco. In the fighting, Geronimo's wife, children, and mother were killed. The incident sparked a life-long hatred of the white man.

Geronimo - Personal Life:

During the course of his long life, Geronimo was married several times. His first marriage, to Alope, ended with her death and that of their children in 1858. He next married Chee-hash-kish and had two children, Chappo and Dohn-say. Through Geronimo's life he was often married to more than one woman at a time, and wives came and went as his fortunes changed. Geronimo's later wives included Nana-tha-thtith, Zi-yeh, She-gha, Shtsha-she, Ih-tedda, Ta-ayz-slath, and Azul.

Geronimo - Career:

Between 1858 and 1886, Geronimo raided and fought against Mexican and US forces. During this time, Geronimo served as the Chiricahua Apache's shaman (medicine man) and war leader, often having visions that guided the band's actions. Though the shaman, Geronimo often served as the Chiricahua's spokesman as the chief, his brother-in-law Juh, had a speech impediment. In 1876, the Chiricahua Apache were forcibly moved to the San Carlos reservation in eastern Arizona. Fleeing with a band of followers, Geronimo raided into Mexico but was soon arrested and returned to San Carlos.

For the remainder of the 1870s, Geronimo and Juh lived peacefully on the reservation. This ended in 1881, following the murder of an Apache prophet. Moving to a secret camp in the Sierra Madre Mountains, Geronimo raided across Arizona, New Mexico, and northern Mexico. In May 1882, Geronimo was surprised in his camp by Apache scouts working for the US Army. He agreed to return to the reservation and for three years lived there as a farmer. This changed on May 17, 1885, when Geronimo fled with 35 warriors and 109 women and children after the sudden arrest of the warrior Ka-ya-ten-nae.

Fleeing back the mountains, Geronimo and Juh successfully operated against US forces until scouts infiltrated their base in January 1886. Cornered, much of Geronimo's band surrendered to General George Crook on March 27, 1886. Geronimo and 38 others escaped, but were cornered in Skeleton Canyon that fall by General Nelson Miles. Surrendering on September 4, 1886, Geronimo's band was one of the last major Native American forces to capitulate to the US Army. Taken into custody, Geronimo and the other warriors were shipped to Fort Pickens in Pensacola, as prisoners, while the other Chiricahua went to Fort Marion.

Geronimo was reunited with his family the following year when all of the Chiricahua Apache were moved to Mount Vernon Barracks in Alabama. After five years, they were shifted to Fort Sill, OK. During his captivity, Geronimo became a popular celebrity and appeared at the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis. The next year he rode in President Theodore Roosevelt's inaugural parade. In 1909, after 23 years in captivity, Geronimo died of pneumonia at Fort Sill. He was buried in the fort's Apache Indian Prisoner of War Cemetery.

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Your Citation
Hickman, Kennedy. "Biography of Geronimo: The Indian Chief and Leader." ThoughtCo, Aug. 26, 2020, Hickman, Kennedy. (2020, August 26). Biography of Geronimo: The Indian Chief and Leader. Retrieved from Hickman, Kennedy. "Biography of Geronimo: The Indian Chief and Leader." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 6, 2023).