Geronimo and the Apaches Essay

The Apaches were nomads, located in Southwest – Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.  Their nation comprised of ten sub-tribes, namely, the Aravaipa Apache, Chiricahua Apache, Cibecue Apache, Jicarilla Apache, Kiowa Apache, Lipan Apache, Mescalero Apache, Tonto Apache, Western Apache and White Mountain Apache. They spoke a language called the Athapascan[1]. Geronimo was born in 1829 in Clifton, Arizona. He was the chief of the Chiricahua Apache tribe. His wife, children, and mother were killed by the Mexicans in 1858; this infuriated him and made him participate in numerous raids against Mexican and American settlers. From that day he never missed an opportunity to terrorize the Mexican settlements. Subsequent to this tragedy in his personal life, he is alleged to have received supernatural powers, which came to him in visions. Geronimo was mainly a medicine man, a seer and a spiritual and intellectual leader. His skills in battle were legendary and the other Apache chiefs depended on his wisdom.

 In 1876 the U.S. government tried to relocate the Chiricahua from their traditional homes to the San Carlos Reservation; Geronimo and his band of loyal followers began a ten year reign of sporadic raids against white settlements, alternating with spells of agrarian activity on the San Carlos reservation. George Crook, the American General, in March 1886, captured Geronimo moved the Chiricahua to Florida. Geronimo escaped and continued his raids, which made General Nelson Miles to pursue him. This forced Geronimo into Mexico where he was captured. The Apaches were sent to Florida, Alabama, and finally to Fort Sill, Oklahoma Territory, where they settled as farmers. In this fashion the Apaches were shifted three more times.

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They have the distinction of being the last Indian tribe to be placed on a reservation[2]. Geronimo adopted Christianity and took part in the inaugural procession of President Theodore Roosevelt in 1905. Geronimo dictated his memoirs, published in 1906 as Geronimo’s Story of His Life. He died at Fort Sill on the 17th of February 1909[3]. Geronimo’s war career was connected with that of his brother-in-law, a Chiricahua chief named Jul. Geronimo was Juh’s spokesman because Juh had a speech impediment. Thus people considered him to be the chief. Geronimo had the distinction of being the last leader of American Indians to formally surrender to the United States. Geronimo was the most famous Apache, as a result of having fought against all odds and having held out the longest. As leader of the Apaches at Arispe in Sonora, he performed such daring feats that the Mexicans gave him the title of Geronimo.

The Apaches considered Geronimo to be the very embodiment of Apache values like aggressiveness and courage in adversity. Raids and vengeance were an honourable way of life among the tribes of this region[4]. The Apaches were nomads who ranged all over the United States and Mexico. Their main occupations were farming and hunting and during times of food scarcity accompanied by shortage of game, they indulged in raiding neighbouring tribes and the white settlers. Apaches were redoubtable warriors and the settlers and the Mexicans lived in perpetual fear of these extremely fierce warriors and the last of such raids ended in 1886 with the surrender of Geronimo and his followers[5]. The Apache culture of being raiders and warriors was effectively ended with this capture of Geronimo.

While adhering strongly to their culture in the face of overwhelming attempts to suppress it, Apaches have been adaptable at the same time and about seventy percent of the Jicarillas still practice the Apache religion and in the first Jicarilla tribal council after the reforms of the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, ten members were medicine men and five were traditional leaders from chiefs’ families. According to a 1978 survey fifty percent in the reservation spoke Jicarilla. Apaches are proud of their traditional crafts and the credit for all this goes to Geronimo, who always exhorted the Apaches to neither forger nor decry their cultural values. At present, there are many Apaches who make an attempt to survive in the dominant American culture while still remaining Apaches[6].

Bibliography.

1.      Buskirk, Winfred. The Western Apache. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1986.

2.      Forbes, Jack D. Apache, Navajo, and Spaniard. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1969, 1994.

3.      Kenner, Charles L. A History of New Mexican-Plains Indian Relations. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1969, 1994.

4.      Perry, Richard J. Apache Reservation: Indigenous Peoples and the American State. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1993.

5.      Stockel, H. Henrietta. Women of the Apache Nation: Voices of Truth. Reno: University of Nevada Press, 1991.

6.      Trimble, Stephen. The People: Indians of the American Southwest. Santa Fe: New Mexico: Sar Press, 1993.

7.      Wright, Muriel H. A Guide to the Indian Tribes of Oklahoma, foreword by Arrell Morgan Gibson. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1951, 1986.

[1] Jason Hamond. Apache. Retrieved from http://www.mnsu.edu/emuseum/cultural/northamerica/apache.html.

[2] The Apache culture. http://www.meta-religion.com/World_Religions /Ancient_religions

   /North_america/apache_culture.htm
[3] Geronimo. Microsoft Encarta Reference Library 2004.
[4] Geronimo. Retrieved on the 6th of May 2006 from http://www.indians.org/welker/geronimo.htm.
[5] Apache. Encyclopaedia Britannica 2005 Deluxe Edition CD-ROM
[6] D.L. Birchfield. Apaches. Gale Encyclopedia of Multicultural America. Retrieved from

   http://www.everyculture.com/multi/A-Br/Apaches.htm .

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