100th Anniversary of Geronimo surrender


TUCSON, Ariz. -- In a rugged, remote Arizona canyon 100 years ago America's Indian wars ended with the surrender of famed Apache leader Geronimo.

On Sept. 4, 1886, Geronimo and his band of 20 warriors and 18 women and children assured Brig. Gen. Nelson Miles there would be no more killing and looting.


Although there were scattered battles later, Geronimo's surrender marked the end of nearly 400 years of Indian warfare, which began in 1513 when Ponce de Leon landed in Florida.

To the members of Geronimo's Chiricahua Apache tribe, the surrender was even more significant -- it ended a life of hunting and raiding and forced them into 27 years of imprisonment and farming.

'It is one of the events that had a major and drastic effect on our tribe,' said Michael Leland Darrow, whose ancestors were Chiricahuas. 'Those effects are something that will be felt for as long as our tribe is in existence.'

Darrow and about 20 fellow tribal members -- now part of the Fort Sill Apaches in Oklahoma -- will participate in centennial ceremonies in Arizona Sept. 4-7.

But, he said they will not commemorate Geronimo's surrender so much as 'something that has affected everyone in our tribe.'


In fact, Darrow said Geronimo never was considered a hero by his tribe, but was looked upon as a 'troublemaker.'

'He was not generally held in high regard,' said Darrow. 'The Chiricahua Apaches did not see him as a leader.'

However, Geronimo -- who never was a chief -- had a reputation as a 'very good medicine man, a very powerful medicine man,' Darrow said.

Geronimo's rise began in the 1850s when he led a war party against Mexican soldiers who had killed his first wife and three children while the Apaches were on a peaceful trading expedition in Mexico.

His reputation peaked after 1874 and the death of another Apache leader, Cochise, who had vowed peace with the whites two years earlier.

Peace lasted only until the government disbanded the Chiricahua reservation and ordered the tribe combined with other Apaches. Several groups of Chiricahuas fled, including Geronimo's band, which moved up into Mexico's Sierra Madre.

For nine years, Geronimo staged raids across the border. Twice he surrendered and returned to the reservation and became a farmer. But each time he left to resume his attacks.

In 1886, Geronimo surrendered again but reneged and failed to return to the reservation. Miles, under increasing pressure from white territorial residents, to begin shipping Apaches, both friendly and unfriendly, to Florida.


In August of that year, Lt. Charles Gatewood entered Geronimo's camp in Mexico and gave him the government's surrender terms -- exile to Florida.

The Indians crossed the border to Skeleton Canyon, Ariz., where Miles made them wait nine days before he arrived for the final surrender. The Indians were marched to Fort Bowie and put on a train as the Fourth Cavalry band played 'Auld Lang Syne.'

The Chiricahuas, 'prisoners of war,' were ultimately moved to Oklahoma. Freedom did not come until 1913, four years after Geronimo's death.

Geronimo spent his last years as a 'tourist attraction,' Darrow said, and was in the inaugural parade of President Theodore Roosevelt in 1905.

While some might have considered his activities demeaning, Darrow said Geronimo 'apparently made quite a lot of money' charging tourists for taking his picture.

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