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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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But within just a few years, Cochise died, and the federal government reneged on its agreement, moving the Chiricahua north so that settlers could move into their former lands. This act only further incensed Geronimo, setting off a new round of fighting.
Geronimo proved to be as elusive as he was aggressive. However,
authorities finally caught up with him in 1877 and sent him to the San Carlos Apache reservation. For four long years he struggled with his new reservation life, finally escaping in September 1881.
Out on his own again, Geronimo and a small band of Chiricahua followers eluded American troops. Over the next five years they engaged in what proved to be the last of the Indian wars against the U.S.
Perceptions of Geronimo were nearly as complex as the man himself. His followers viewed him as the last great defender of the Native American way of life. But others, including fellow Apaches, saw him as a stubborn holdout, violently driven by revenge and foolishly putting the lives of people in danger.
With his followers in tow, Geronimo shot across the Southwest. As he did, the seemingly mystical leader was transformed into a legend as newspapers closely followed the Army's pursuit of him. At one point nearly a quarter of the Army's forces—5,000 troops—were trying to hunt him down.
Finally, in the summer of 1886, he surrendered, the last Chiricahua to do so. Over the next several years Geronimo and his people were bounced around, first to a prison in Florida, then a prison camp in Alabama, and then Fort Sill in Oklahoma. In total, the group spent 27 years as prisoners of war.
While he and the rest of the Chiricahua remained under guard, Geronimo experienced a bit of celebrity from his white former enemies. Less than a decade after he'd surrendered, crowds longed to catch a glimpse of the famous Indian warrior. In 1905 he published his autobiography, and that same year he received a private audience with President Theodore Roosevelt, unsuccessfully pressing the American leader to let his people return to Arizona.
His death came four years later. While riding home in February 1909, he was thrown from his horse. He survived a night out in the cold, but when a friend found him the next day, Geronimo's health was rapidly deteriorating. He passed away six days later, with his nephew at his side.
"I should never have surrendered," Geronimo, still a prisoner of war, said on his deathbed. "I should have fought until I was the last man alive."
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