Photo of Geronomo/Goyathlay from the U.S. Library of Congress.

Geronimo (Chiricahua Goyaałé 'One Who Yawns'; often spelled Goyathlay in English), (June 16, 1829–February 17, 1909) was a prominent Native American leader of the Chiricahua Apache who long warred against the encroachment of the white man on tribal lands.


Geronimo was born near Turkey Creek, a tributary of the Gila River in what is now the state of New Mexico, then part of Mexico, but which his family considered Bedonkohe Apache hell(tori) land. Geronimo himself was a Bedonkohe Apache. He grew up to be a respected medicine man and, later, an accomplished warrior who fought frequently with Mexican troops. Mexican soldiers massacred his first wife and three children during a supposedly peaceful trading session in 1858, and as a result he hated all Mexicans for the rest of his life. Mexicans gave him the nickname of "Gerónimo". The reasons for this name are not known. Some believe that his Spanish enemies called out to Saint Jerome for assistance while attacking or in the midst of violent defeat. Others believe it was a transcription of the Spanish attempt to pronounce the name Goyaałé.

Geronimo fought against ever-increasing numbers of both Mexican and United States troops and became famous for his daring exploits and numerous escapes from capture. At the last, these 38 men, women and children evaded 5000 U.S. troops (one fourth of the army at the time) and the Mexican army for a year. His forces became the last major force of independent Indian warriors who refused to acknowledge the United States Government in the American West. This came to an end on September 4, 1886, when Geronimo surrendered to United States Army General Nelson A. Miles at Skeleton Canyon, Arizona.

Geronimo was sent as a prisoner to Fort Pickens, Florida. In 1894 he was moved to Fort Sill, Oklahoma. In his old age Geronimo became something of a celebrity. He appeared at fairs, including the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis, and selling souvenirs and photographs of himself. However, he was not allowed to return to the land of his birth. He rode in the United States President Theodore Roosevelt's 1905 inaugural parade. He died of pneumonia at Fort Sill in 1909, and was buried at the Apache Indian Prisoner of War Cemetery in Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

In 1918, several members of the secretive Skull and Bones society at Yale University, while serving as Army volunteers at Fort Sill during World War I, reportedly stole Geronimo's skull, some bones, and other materials, including Geronimo's prized silver bridle, from the Apache Indian Prisoner of War Cemetery. The remains and other materials were alleged to have been taken to the society's tomb-like headquarters on the Yale University campus, and are supposedly used in rituals practiced by the group. One of their rituals is said to be kissing the skull of Geronimo as an inititation.

Ironically, General Henry Ware Lawton who under General Nelson A. Miles led the expedition that eventually captured Geronimo, was killed by another Geronimo, the Filipino insurgent Licerio Geronimo during the Philippine-American War a few years after.

In Popular Culture[]

Geronimo is a popular figure in cinema and television. Characters based on Geronimo have appeared in many films, including:

Geronimo's Last Raid (1912)
Hawk of the Wilderness (1938)
Geronimo (1939)
Valley of the Sun (1942)
Broken Arrow (1950)
I Killed Geronimo (1950)
Outpost (1951)
Son of Geronimo: Apache Avenger (1952)
The Battle at Apache Pass (1952)
Indian Uprising (1952)
Taza, Son of Cochise (1954)
Walk the Proud Land (1956)
Geronimo (1962)
Geronimo und die Räuber (West German, 1966)
Geronimo (Starring Joseph Runningfox) (1993)
Geronimo: An American Legend (1993)
Hot Shots! Part Deux (1993)
War of the Buttons (1994).

The character of Geronimo appeared in the 1979 film Mr. Horn, Tom Horn only is known to have met Geronimo on January 13, 1886 in the company of Lt. Maus two days after Capt. Emmet Crawford was shot. Characterisations of Geronimo also appeared in Gunsmoke: The Last Apache (the 1990 reunion movie of television series Gunsmoke), and the 1993 telefilm Geronimo. The 1976 film I Due superpiedi quasi piatti features a character who believes himself to be Geronimo. The manga and anime television series Kinnikuman and Ultimate Muscle: The Kinnikuman Legacy features a highly stereotyped native wrestler, based loosely on the historical figure.

Geronimo as a US Prisoner

In 1940, the night before their first mass jump, U.S. paratroopers at Fort Benning saw a film about Geronimo, and began shouting his name during jumps, a trend which has caught on elsewhere.

In 1943 a United States Liberty ship named the SS Geronimo was launched. She was scrapped in 1960.

The Apache Software Foundation named a Web Application Server after this Indian leader; see Geronimo Application Server.

The Grand Canyon Council of the Boy Scouts of America runs Camp Geronimo, near Pine, Arizona.

Two towns in the US, one in Oklahoma, another in Texas, are named for him

External Links[]

See Also[]


  • Opler, Morris E.; & French, David H. (1941). Myths and tales of the Chiricahua Apache Indians. Memoirs of the American folk-lore society, (Vol. 37). New York: American Folk-lore Society. (Reprinted in 1969 by New York: Kraus Reprint Co.; in 1970 by New York; in 1976 by Millwood, NY: Kraus Reprint Co.; & in 1994 under M. E. Opler, Morris by Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. ISBN 0-80328602-3).
  • Pinnow, Jürgen. (1988). Die Sprache der Chiricahua-Apachen: Mit Seitenblicken auf das Mescalero [The language of the Chiricahua Apache: With side glances at the Mescalero]. Hamburg: Helmut Buske Verlag.

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