Thursday, August 5, 2010

Chief Geronimo - Apache

Chief Geronimo - Apache

Geronimo (Also known as Goyaale, Goyathlay and Goyahkla) was born on June 16, 1829, to the Bedonkohe band of the Chiricahua Apache, near Turkey Creek, a tributary of the Gila River in the modern-day state of New Mexico (then a part of Mexico).

On March 6, 1858, a company of 400 Mexican soldiers from Sonora led by Colonel José María Carrasco attacked Geronimo's camp outside Janos while the men were in town trading. Among those killed were Geronimo's wife, his children, and his mother. His chief, Mangas Coloradas, sent him to Cochise's band for help in revenge against the Mexicans. It was the Mexicans who named him Geronimo. This appellation stemmed from a battle in which, ignoring a deadly hail of bullets, he repeatedly attacked Mexican soldiers with a knife, causing them to utter appeals to Saint Jerome ("Jeronimo!"). The name stuck.

Because of this incident where his wife, children and mother were killed by the Mexicans, Geronimo, from then on took revenge on the Mexicans with many deadly raids.

Spiritual powers

Geronimo said he was not a chief, but he was certainly a great military leader.  He was one of many people with special spiritual insights and abilities known to Apache people as "Power". Among these were the ability to walk without leaving tracks; the abilities now known as telekinesis and telepathy; and the ability to survive gunshot (rifle/musket, pistol, and shotgun). Geronimo was wounded numerous times by both bullets and buckshot, but survived. Apache men chose to follow him of their own free will, and offered first-hand eye-witness testimony regarding his many "powers". They declared that this was the main reason why so many chose to follow him (he was favored by/protected by "Usen", the Apache high-god). Geronimo's "powers" were considered to be so great that he personally painted the faces of the warriors who followed him to reflect their protective effect. During his career as a war chief, Geronimo was notorious for consistently urging raids and war upon Mexican Provinces and their various towns, and later against American locations across Arizona, New Mexico, and western Texas.

Daring exploits

Though outnumbered, Geronimo fought against both Mexican and United States troops and became famous for his daring exploits and numerous escapes from capture from 1858 to 1886. One such escape, as legend has it, took place in the Robledo Mountains of southwest New Mexico. The legend states Geronimo and his followers entered a cave, and the U.S. soldiers waited outside the cave entrance for him, but he never came out. Later it was heard that Geronimo was spotted in a nearby area. The second entrance to the cave has yet to be found and the cave is still called Geronimo's Cave. At the end of his military career, he led a small band of 36 men, women, and children. They evaded thousands of Mexican and American troops for over a year, making him the most famous Native American of the time and earning him the title of the "worst Indian who ever lived" among white settlers. His band was one of the last major forces of independent Native American warriors who refused to acknowledge the United States occupation of the American West.

Capture and surrender

In 1886, General Nelson A. Miles selected Captain Henry Lawton, in command of B Troop, 4th Cavalry, at Ft. Huachuca and First Lieutenant Charles B. Gatewood to lead the expedition that captured Geronimo. Geronimo gave Gatewood credit for his decision to surrender as Gatewood was well known to Geronimo, spoke some Apache, and was familiar with and honored their traditions and values. He acknowledged Lawton's tenacity for wearing the Apaches down with constant pursuit. Geronimo and his followers had little or no time to rest or stay in one place. Completely worn out, the little band of Apaches returned to the U.S. with Lawton and officially surrendered to General Miles on September 4, 1886 at Skeleton Canyon, Arizona.


Geronimo and other Apaches, including the Apache scouts who had helped the army track him down, were sent as prisoners to Fort Pickens, in Pensacola Florida, and his family was sent to Fort Marion.[9] They were reunited in May 1887, when they were transferred to Mount Vernon Barracks in Alabama for seven years. In 1894, they were moved to Fort Sill, Oklahoma. In his old age, Geronimo became a celebrity. He appeared at fairs, including the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis, where he reportedly rode a ferris wheel and sold souvenirs and photographs of himself. However, he was not allowed to return to the land of his birth. He rode in President Theodore Roosevelt's 1905 inaugural parade.


In February, 1909, Geronimo was thrown from his horse while riding home, and had to lie in the cold all night before a friend found him extremely ill. He died of pneumonia on February 17, 1909 as a prisoner of the United States at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. On his deathbed, he confessed to his nephew that he regretted his decision to surrender. He was buried at Fort Sill in the Apache Indian Prisoner of War Cemetery.

Geronimo's Grave at Fort Sill


Geronimo had three brothers and four sisters.

His first wife was Alope from the Nedni-Chiricahua band of Apache when he was 17.  They had three children.  In was in the raid of Mexican troops that his wife, children and mother were killed.

His second wife was Chee-hash-kish.  They had two children, Chappo and Dohn-say.

His third wife was Zi-yeh.

His fourth wife was She-gha.

His fifth wife was Shisha-she.

His sixth wife was Ih-tedda.

Another wife was Ta-ayz-slath.

His last wife was Azul.


If you are LDS (a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) and you have a new FamilySearch account, you can find Geronimo and his descendants on Once you are in, type in your user name and password.  Click on the Search tab. Click on the Search by Number tab. Type in KN41-1LD in the Person Identifier box.  Click on Search

Geronimo's pedigree with children will appear. At this point you will be able to move around and see his ancestors and descendants.  If you have trouble, contact your ward family history consultant.

Family Tree

To find the family tree for Geronimo in Roots Web, click here.  This will take you to his individual information page.  To see his ancestors, click on the Pedigree tab.  To see his descendants, click on the Descendants tab.


He joined the Dutch Reformed Church in 1903 but four years later was expelled for gambling. To the end of his life, he seemed to harbor ambivalent religious feelings, telling the Christian missionaries at a summer camp meeting in 1908 that he wanted to start over, while at the same time telling his tribesmen that he held to the old Apache religion.


Geronimo was a fierce warrior.  He became a legend during and after his life.  More than fifteen movies have been made about him.  Military units have mottos and slogans named after him.

Other Chiefs
Crazy Horse - Sioux
Red Cloud - Sioux
Red Fox - Sioux
Sitting Bull - Sioux

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