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Geronimo, Research Paper Example

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Research Paper

Introduction

Geronimo is an Apache chief of the Mescalero-Chiricahua tribe.  He was born in 1829 and became one of the great Apache war chiefs. He gained fame and notoriety for his resistance to both the Mexicans and Americans.  His main reason for warfare being the incursion by both Mexicans and Americans into Apache tribal lands.  He was particularly vengeful against the Mexican Army who was responsible for the death of his family.  As the war chief of the Apache he conducted countless raids across Arizona, New Mexico and the western part of Texas.  He had a lengthy period of pursuit from the US army until his capture in 1886.  He then became a prisoner of war until he died from pneumonia in 1909.  His body now resides in the Apache Indian Prisoner of War Cemetery at Fort Hill Oklahoma.  (Haugen 2006)

Background

Geronimo was an Apache a native Indian of the south west United States.  This included such famous tribes as the Navajo, Mescalero, Chiricahua and Kiowa’s.  They gained a reputation for being fierce warriors and masters of their harsh terrain predominately in Arizona and New Mexico.  Geronimo was part of the Bedonkohe tribe that dwelled in the Gila River area of New Mexico.  He later joined the band of Chief Cochise and assisted in the fight against the Mexicans. He was a fierce warrior gaining a reputation for his expertise with a knife.  Geronimo was not a religious person but believed in a sort of afterlife. His main concept was devotion to duty to his family and tribe.  In many regards he was a pragmatist.  During his capture in later life and the time he spent in internment it is reported that he adopted Christianity in the hope that it would improve his character.  Others say that he still held to traditional apache beliefs and this was a fabrication put forward by the white man. (Sanford 1994).

Famous Battles

The Apaches conducted a war of terror against the Mexicans during 1820-1835 and they conducted guerilla type raids that resulted in the deaths of thousands of Mexicans.  They burnt Mexican settlements to the ground and created an atmosphere of terror in the region. Nobody felt safe from the wrath of the Apaches.  The Mexicans offered bounties for Apache scalps and this enraged the main war chief Mangas Coloradas who declared open season on the Mexicans.

Geronimo gained a reputation as a shrewd tactitioner and strategist mastering the art of Guerilla warfare.  He would conduct lighting attacks and then disappear with his followers into the surrounding mountainous terrain.  The Mexicans attempted a peace treaty with the Apaches at Casa Grande and during this time got the Apaches drunk on Mescal.  After which they turned on them murdering many and taking others as prisoners.  It was this type of treachery that resulted in a deep mistrust and hatred of the Mexicans by Geronimo.

Geronimo was amongst the most feared of the Apache war chiefs and it was his bravery in carrying out guerilla attacks that gave him a fierce reputation. Some say sadistic killers and murderers but for the Apache it was a war against the invaders of their land.  They created fear for settlers who moved into Arizona and New Mexico. (Schwarz 2000).

San Carlos Reservation

In 1875 virtually all of the Apaches that were west of the Rio Grande were rounded up by the US army and ordered to be contained in the San Carlos Indian Reservation. Geronimo escaped a number of times and finally he fled over the border into Mexico. After that he managed to evade the US troops for over 10 years before they captured him in a joint effort with the Mexican army. The operation involved thousands of Mexican and Union soldiers and indicated how well the Apache could master the terrain and evade capture.  His final surrender in 1886 saw his small band of Chiricahuas apaches being sent to Fort Marion in Florida. Others were despatched to Mt Vernon Barracks in Alabama. They were allowed to decline with tuberculosis and other diseases. Geronimo never saw his native homeland again and was buried at Fort Sill Oklahoma.

Fearsome Reputation

There were numerous stories told about the killings of white Americans and Mexicans after Apache raids.  This included stories of torture and mutilation of the victims.  Geronimo denied that his regular warriors performed such acts and this was bands of renegade apaches. He stated that his warriors only had instructions to scalp victims that had already been killed in battle. However he did admit to tactics of torture being used to get prisoners to reveal information. (Barrett 2011)

Geronimo maintained that they acted with such savagery in order to avenge the wrongs against his people.  History also reveals that the Apache were a brutal race amongst each other and frequently had tribal wars with barbarity amongst their own kind.  The Apache had learnt how to inflict terror amongst their victims and realised that mutilated corpses sent a message of fear to others.  The Apaches had learnt to master the harsh terrain in which they lived. They became accomplished horse riders and knew how to survive in hostile environments where others could easily perish.  The US Army later nicknamed an attack helicopter ‘The Apache’ for its skill in maneuvering, fierce armament and capability of providing lighting strikes.  It was well named and has served in numerous combat offensive situations.

Honoured Among the Apache

Geronimo will always be remembered by the Apache Nation as a great war chief and a person who embodied their main characteristics of aggressiveness, courage and determination to succeed.  To the early pioneers of New Mexico and Arizona he will be remembered as a terrorist figure that mercilessly slayed and mutilated his victims.  The Mexican and American army will remember him as a feared adversary that proved elusive and difficult to track down.  The US army learnt the strategy of the ‘hit and run’ guerrilla warfare operations from the Apache and how to master the terrain in combat conditions.

In some regards Geronimo epitomised the famous saying that one person’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter.  Geronimo felt that he had the birthright to protect native Apache lands from the invasion of the Mexicans and white pioneer settlers.  They came unwanted and without permission and they initially persecuted the native Indians.  He had a duty to repel these invaders from his land and he became enraged with this after his family were killed by the Mexicans. From that point he had a particular hatred of the Mexicans and vowed to kill as many of them as he could.

Conclusions

Geronimo is remembered as one of the more colourful characters that made up the history of the American West.  He portrays the image of a ferocious warrior from one of the most feared of all the North American Indian tribes the Mescalero-Chiricahua Apache.  He was the last of the famous guerilla fighters to conduct warfare on US territory.  His passing singled out an end of an era for the Apache nation that dominated the South West region of the USA around Arizona, New Mexico and West Texas.   This made settlement of the West possible and paved the way for expansion through to California.

On escaping from the San Carlos reservation Geronimo became a folk hero and the public were amazed how he evaded capture from some 10,000 troops who perused him and a small band of followers.  After recapture the legendary figure Buffalo Bill tried to get Geronimo to join his Wild West show.   Instead he ended up as a recluse individual and died of pneumonia along with many of his other tribe that could not live on the reservations.   (Claro 1993)

Works Cited

Barrett, S. M. Geronimo: The True Story of America’s Most Ferocious Warrior. New York : Sky Horse Publishing, 2011.

Claro, Nicole. The Apache Indians. New York : Facts on File, 1993.

Haugen, Brenda. Geronimo: Apache Warrior. MInneapolis: Compass Point Books, 2006.

Sanford, William Reynolds. Geronimo, Apache warrior. New York: Enslow, 1994.

Schwarz, Melissa. Geronimo: Apache Warrior. New York: Demco Media, 2000.

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