Author records history of Geronimo, Apaches
Posted October 25, 2012on:
In her book, “Geronimo: The Man, His Time, His Place,” Angie Debo, a Native American history scholar, gives the reader a detailed history of the life of Geronimo and the Apaches of his time. Using all of her research techniques to construct an accurate timeline, Debo chronicles information of significant events throughout Geronimo’s life. The book contains footnotes documenting information and adding others’ recollections to the material. Black and white photos of Geronimo and other prominent Apaches also appear throughout the book.
Geronimo had a number of wives and children through his life, and although he seemed indestructible, his wives and children didn’t fare as well. In 1850 on a peaceful trading trip to Mexico, the Apache men left their families in camp with a guard, but upon their return, they found Mexican troops had invaded the camp, took supplies and ponies and massacred their people.
Geronimo said, “I found my aged mother, my young wife, and my three small children were among the slain.” For the rest of his life, Geronimo hated the Mexicans.
Debo documents the white man’s treachery and disrespect for the Indians and the invasion and taking of the Indian’s land. She describes the battles that ensued and writes of the murder of Mangas Coloradas, chief and leader of Mimbrenos, on Jan. 18, 1863 and his beheading by an Army surgeon, who “sent the skull to a phrenologist, who reported that it was larger than Daniel Webster’s. It was afterwards used as a lecture exhibit.”
She also writes that Geronimo said that this murder was “perhaps the greatest wrong ever done to the Indians,” but as the book continues, many more wrongs awaited the Indians. The government made and broke promises and treaties. They moved the Indians to reservations and over time the size of reservations decreased to satisfy the needs of miners, ranchers and others. The cavalry hunted down those who refused to move to reservations and either killed them, took them as prisoners or talked them into surrendering.
Well-meaning individuals tried to acclimate the Apaches to farming and took their children and sent them to boarding schools to strip them of their cultural ways and teach them how to live in the white man’s world. Many of the children perished as did other Apaches from diseases like tuberculosis and because they missed their homes and being separated from their families.
Geronimo escaped numerous times because of threats he perceived against his life. He also surrendered numerous times. He and his followers traveled from one reservation to another with the hope that some day they would return to their home in Arizona. Geronimo adapted to the white man’s ways with a shrewd kind of flair.
The book depicts the true life of Geronimo and the other Apaches without sugar-coating how the white men or the Mexicans treated them. It shows the character of the Geronimo and the Apaches and explains their animosity for those who stole their land, their lives and their culture. The author does an excellent job of documenting the life and times of Geronimo. I highly recommend this book.
© 2012 Photo by Janice Semmel