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Geronimo was a Bedonkohe Apache leader of the Chiricahua Apache, who led his people's defense of their homeland against the military might of the United States.
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A full biography of Geronimo, a prominent Native American chief of the Apache tribe.
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Born in June 1829, in No-Doyohn Canyon, Mexico, Geronimo continued the tradition of the Apaches resisting white colonization of their homeland in the Southwest, participating in raids into Sonora and Chihuahua in Mexico. After years of war Geronimo finally surrendered to U.S. troops in 1886. While he became a celebrity, he spent the last two decades of his life as a prisoner of war.
A legend of the untamed American frontier, the Apache leader Geronimo was born in June 1829 in No-Doyohn Canyon, Mexico. He was a naturally gifted hunter, who, the story goes, as a boy swallowed the heart of his first kill in order to ensure a life of success on the chase.
Being on the run certainly defined Geronimo's way of life. He belonged to the smallest band within the Chiricahua tribe, the Bedonkohe. Numbering a little more than 8,000, the Apaches were surrounded by enemies—not just Mexicans, but also other tribes, including the Navajo and Comanches.
Raiding their neighbors was also a part of the Apache life. In response the Mexican government put a bounty on Apache scalps, offering as much as $25 for a child's scalp. But this did little to deter Geronimo and his people. At the age of 17 Geronimo had already led four successful raiding operations.
Around this same time Geronimo fell in love with a woman named Alope. The two married and had three children together.
Then tragedy struck. While out on a trading trip, Mexican soldiers attacked his camp. Word of the ransacking soon reached the Apache men. Quietly that night, Geronimo returned home, where he found his mother, wife and three children all dead.
The murders devastated Geronimo. In the tradition of the Apache, he set fire to his family's belongings and then, in a show of grief, headed into the wilderness to bereave the deaths. There, it's said, alone and crying, a voice came to Geronimo that promised him: "No gun will ever kill you. I will take the bullets from the guns of the Mexicans … and I will guide your arrows."
Backed by this sudden knowledge of power, Geronimo rounded up a force of 200 men and hunted down the Mexican soldiers who killed his family. On it went like this for 10 years, as Geronimo exacted revenge against the Mexican government.
Beginning in the 1850s, the face of his enemy changed. Following the end of the Mexican-American War in 1848, the U.S. took over large tracts of territory from Mexico, including areas belonging to the Apache. Spurred by the discovery of gold in the Southwest, settlers and miners streamed into their lands. Naturally, tensions mounted. The Apaches stepped up their attacks, which included brutal ambushes on stagecoaches and wagon trains.
But the Chiricahua leader, Geronimo's father-in-law, Cochise, could see where the future was headed. In an act that greatly disappointed his son-in-law, the revered chief called a halt to his decade-long war with the Americans and agreed to the establishment of a reservation for his people on a prized piece of Apache property.
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