Geronimo (1829-1909) was an Apache leader and medicine man best known for his fearlessness in resisting anyone–Mexican or American—who attempted to remove his people from their tribal lands. He repeatedly evaded capture and life on a reservation, and during his final escape, a full quarter of the U.S. standing Army pursued him and his followers. When Geronimo formally surrendered to the U.S. military on September 4, 1886, he was the only armed and mounted Indian in the United States of America. The Last Warrior. He spent the final 23 years of his life as a prisoner of war. He is the only known prisoner to have ever been invited to participate in the inauguration ceremonies of a head of state. At the order of President Theodore
Roosevelt, he rode, mounted on a horse with accompanying guards, in Roosevelt’s Inaugural Parade on March 4, 1905. When taken to the White House to see the President, he expressed no awe. He demanded that the Apaches be sent back to their homeland in the Southwest. When the president said that he could not do this, Geronimo turned on his heel and walked away.
Geronimo was born on June 16, 1829. His birth name was Goyahkla, or “one who yawns.” He was part of the Bedonkohe group of the Chiricahua tribe of Apaches. As a youth, he showed early promise as a hunter and warrior. Personal tragedy, the murder of his wife, their three children and his mother in 1851 by Mexican soldiers, shaped his lifelong hatred for anyone who attempted to subject him or his people. Wild with grief, Geronimo burned his family’s belongings according to Apache tradition before heading into the forest, where he heard the voice of his Power. He soon hunted down his family’s killers and devoted his life to avenging them.
Years of roving warfare, undertaken out of love and concern for all Apaches, made him a master of all terrain; this, with detailed knowledge of the habits of the enemy, made him a formidable strategist and field general. He was a brilliant observer of the natural world and used his observations to create illusions and to blend his people into the environment to gain advantage over any adversary. Beloved by his people, he often pushed the Apache men, women and children in his group to travel as far as 70 miles per day. Geronimo turned himself in to General Nelson Miles at Skeleton Canyon, Arizona, on September 4, 1886. He and his fellow captives were sent to Florida, Alabama and ultimately to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, where he spent his last 14 years. Geronimo died of pneumonia at Fort Sill on February 17, 1909. He is buried in Beef Creek Apache Cemetery in Fort Sill, Oklahoma.